Incumbent Prime Minister Andrej Plenković’s center-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) has won the elections in Croatia, securing between 61 and 65 seats in the 151-seat single chamber legislation, with the opposition Social-Democrats second with 44 seats.
The election – normally due in autumn of every fourth year – was brought forward to early July at the proposal of the governing HDZ, which argued that the uncertainties regarding the coronavirus pandemic and more specifically a potential second wave in autumn could severely reduce attendance. While the opposition parties reluctantly agreed to the move, most political analysts said Plenković brought forward the elections to capitalize on his government’s good handling of the pandemic: Croatia, with a population of just over four million so far had only 3,151 confirmed coronavirus cases and 113 casualties.
Plenković may also have wanted to hold early elections because the Balkans country on the Adriatic Sea is heavily reliant on tourism and the very slow tourist season this year will likely make a big dent in the country’s GDP. The government itself said back in April that it expects the country’s economy to shrink by 9.4 percent this year after a 2.9 percent growth last year.
Although only coming in third, the far right Homeland Movement led by folk musician and television host Miroslav Škoro posted the biggest gains, increasing fourfold the number of its parliamentary group to an estimated 16 seats from just four in 2016.
In theory, both the left and the right could be able to form coalitions if they are willing to make compromises, but currently a HDZ-Homeland coalition seeming more likely, despite the fact that in the campaign Škoro said his party will only team up with HDZ if they replace Andrej Plenković in the prime minister’s seat. Such a coalition would likely give Škoro’s party the opportunity to nominate a few ministers and even have a larger influence in a government than its weight alone would suggest, due to veto powers.
Title image: Andrej Plenković, Croatia’s Prime Minister incumbent shows a thumbs up after at his party’s headquarters in Zagreb, Croatia, Sunday, July 5, 2020. An exit poll released after a vote in Croatia’s parliamentary election indicates that the ruling conservatives have a strong lead over their main center-left rivals. (AP Photo)