Exit polls, published at 7 pm on Sunday, showed that the ruling centre-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) has won 61 seats the Croatian parliamentary election, with the centre-left Restart coalition led by the main opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP), trailing behind with 44 seats in the 151-seat parliament.
The sizeable lead of the HDZ came as a surprise since the polls conducted in the days before the election showed a tight race between the HDZ and the Restart coalition with no clear winner in sight, paving the way to post-election coalitions as the parties race to come up with a 76-seat majority in the 151-seat parliament which would enable them to form the government.
The right-wing Homeland Movement (DP), led by singer-turned-politician Miroslav Skoro who came on to the political scene when he came in third in the presidential election held late last year, has according to the exit polls won 16 seats.
The green-left coalition, led by the Mozemo party which has until now been mostly active in the country’s capital of Zagreb, came in fourth, with eight seats. Mozemo sought to attract voters disappointed with the SDP.
Conservative anti-establishment party, Most, which was the third-largest party in the 2016 election, has won eight seats according to the exit polls, while the liberal coalition of the Stranka s Imenom i Prezimenom, Pametno, and Fokus, has captured three seats.
No other party has managed to pass the five percent threshold needed to win a seat in the parliament.
The ruling HDZ decided to move the election up from the regular date in September to July, seeking to capitalize on the successful handling of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cases, however, are surging again in Croatia which has begun reopening after a months-long lockdown imposed in late March to stem the spread of the outbreak.
As a result, turnout throughout Sunday was somewhat lower than in the last parliamentary election in 2016. By 4.30 pm, some 34 percent voters cast their ballots, compared to 37.6 percent in 2016.
Preliminary results are expected to start coming in around 9 pm.