With more than 95 percent of polling stations reporting, the ruling centre-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) is set to win 66 seats in the 151-seat parliament, while the main opposition Restart coalition, led by the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP), has won 41 seats in the election held on Sunday.
Even though the polls conducted in the run-up to the election predicted a tight race between the HDZ and the SDP-led coalition, the incumbent Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic, and his party are the convincing winners of the election, and are now expected to go into talks with other parties and eight representatives of minorities to reach the necessary 76-seat majority.
“This result is a responsibility for us. We’ve had a difficult term full of challenges, and the challenges ahead of us are even greater. Circumstances like that call for hard work, enthusiasm, sacrifice, knowledge, and experience,” Plenkovic said in his victory speech. “Support like this is a huge obligation and we will be mindful of it. Croatia needs solutions for the economy and the challenges in the public health sector, as well as for improving the state of our institutions and human and minority rights.”
After the latest polls, conduced on Friday, had predicted the Restart coalition would win 56 seats, Sunday’s result came as a disappointment, and some prominent members of the SDP have already called on the party leader, Davor Bernardic, to step down.
“For 30 years, we’ve been defending personal freedoms, we’ve been fighting for all those who were oppressed. We believe in open, modern, tolerant Croatia in which each person, regardless of where they’re coming from, deserves equal safety, legal protection, and a chance to succeed. Of course this result is bad for the SDP. I’m prepared to leave, but the SDP will go on,” Bernardic said, congratulating the winner.
With 16 seats, the third-largest party in the Croatian parliament is the right-wing Homeland Movement (DP), led by the singer-turned-politician Miroslav Skoro, who came onto the political scene in Croatia in the presidential election last year.
“I congratulate HDZ. I want to thank everyone and congratulate those on our lists who won seats in the parliament. We’ll be constructive and the only ones we will listen to are the Croatian people,” Skoro said in his speech.
Anti-establishment conservative Most party, which has formed parliament majority in coalition with the HDZ in the previous two elections in 2015 and 2016 before leaving the strained partnership both times, has won eight seats.
The biggest surprise of the election, with seven seats, was the green-left coalition led by the Mozemo! platform, which has until now been mostly active in the country’s capital of Zagreb as the opposition to Zagreb’s longtime mayor, Milan Bandic.
“Six green-left parties… are united in the same goal: to bring to the Croatian parliament a green-left coalition for the 21st century. The coalition which will fight for social justice, economic sustainability, democratisation of the society and gender equality… There is a big crisis looming over us, we’re going to face major challenges,” Tomasevic said.
The election was held against the backdrop of a surge in coronavirus cases Croatia has seen in the past weeks as the country has started reopening after a months-long lockdown imposed to stem the spread of the contagion. The pandemic can in part account for the low turnout, as only 46.6 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots on Sunday.