The conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party has consolidated its power in Croatia after winning 66 seats in the country’s 151-seat parliament following today’s election.
The party did not obtain an absolute majority and is expected to form a coalition government with smaller right-wing groups.
HDZ leader and incumbent prime minister Andrej Plenković said this victory was “great”, but also an “obligation”: “It is an obligation because we had a tough mandate full of challenges behind us, and the challenges ahead of us are even bigger. Such circumstances require hard work, energy, enthusiasm, dedication.”
The main opponents of the Restart Coalition, led by the Social Democratic Party (SDP), won 41 seats. Opposition leader Davor Bernardić conceded defeat and suggested he would resign.
The nationalist Homeland Movement led by folk singer Miroslav Škoro placed third in the race with 16 seats.
Turnout was only 46%, the lowest ever in Croatia’s parliamentary election and it could cast a shadow over the government’s legitimacy, experts say.
Earlier polls showed a close race between the two mainstream parties but it was uncertain who would win the most seats or who might be able to form a majority coalition.
Experts say the elections were brought forward in part because the ruling party thinks they could benefit from their handling of the coronavirus pandemic. There have been just under 3,000 cases and 110 deaths but now cases are on the rise.
“At the time, it looked like a smart move for the government to secure a stable majority without the previous coalition partners,” said Tena Prelec, a research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations.
“But the decision to lift the lockdown and open the borders too fast came back like a political boomerang: now the epidemiological situation in Croatia is deteriorating day by day.”