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2011 Croatian Parliamentary Elections Report

- December 8, 2011

We are pleased to welcome Dario Cepo, an associate in the Miroslav Krleza Lexicographic Institute with the following post-election report on the Sunday’s Croatian parliamentary elections.

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This past Sunday’s general elections in Croatia saw a landslide victory for the opposition four party Kukuriku coalition, led by the left-of-centre Social Democratic Party (SDP), as well as the trouncing of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), a righ-of-centre party that ruled Croatia since 1990 (with the short hiatus of 2000–2003). The final result, with almost 62% of voters casting their vote, were 80 seats for the coalition and 47 for the HDZ and its partners. Smaller parties took another 16 seats, with the newly formed Croatian Labour Party becoming a third party in the Sabor, the Croatian unicameral parliament, with 6 seats. The surprise of these elections is the success of the independent list led by retired Catholic priest don Ivan Grubišić, whose critique of the political elites and his call for greater equality and justice found enough supporters to give him 2 seats in the parliament.

The complete success of the left-of-centre coalition – which besides SDP, also has the liberal Croatian Peoples Party (HNS), the regional Istrian Democratic Congress (IDS), and the Croatian Pensioners Party (HSU) – was demonstrated in the final results where they won 8 out of 10 electoral units (in each unit 14 mandates were up for grabs), with just the right-wing bastions of northern Dalmatia and the southern part of Eastern Slavonia (the parts of the country most strongly affected by the 1991–1995 war) in the hands of the ruling HDZ. Another eight seats in 151-seat-parliament are reserved for the representatives of various national minorities (most notably Serbs that have the right to elect three representatives) that are elected by their respective minority (or groups of minorities).

The shortest ever election campaign, that officially lasted only two weeks, was dominated by corruption scandals in the ruling HDZ, whos former boss and former Croatian prime minister (2003–2009) Ivo Sanader, was arrested and is being tried on war profiteering charges and is accused of recieving bribes, most notably for the selling of national oil giant INA to the Hungarian company MOL. His successor as prime minister as well as the president of HDZ, Jadranka Kosor, started with the fight against corruption which saw several of her parties members arrested or held as suspects. With the fight against corruption and the end of the negotiations for the accession of Croatia into the European Union, Kosor and her HDZ hoped to offset any negative effects of the prolonged economic crisis from which Croatia, by several measures, recoverd slower any other Central or Eastern European country.

The new government – expected to be formed by January – will have several major issues to deal with at the very beginning of their term in office, most notably the challenge of lowering the budget deficit so that Croatia can maintain its current credit rating. The next big task will be to organize the referendum for the accession of Croatia to the European Union (which is by the last polls is set to pass, with around 60% of people being in favor of the membership). The Kukuriku coalition received a clear mandate to recover Croatian economic prospects, as well as to introduce a true rule of law society that prides itself on the ideals of justice and equality, although disenchanted voters are not convinced that it will happen, seeing all the political elites as essentially the same. That pessimism will be hard for the leaders of the coalition to fight against.