Croa­tia faces close poll in shadow of virus

The Irish Times - - World News - DANIEL McLAUGH­LIN

Croa­tia’s two main par­ties are neck-and-neck in polls be­fore to­mor­row’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tion, which will be dom­i­nated by con­cerns about coro­n­avirus and its im­pact on an economy that re­lies heav­ily on tourism.

Sur­veys give both the rul­ing con­ser­va­tive Croa­t­ian Demo­cratic Union (HDZ) and the Restart al­liance led by the cen­tre-left So­cial Democrats (SDP) be­tween 25 and 30 per cent, well clear of the na­tion­al­ist Home­land Move­ment that could be a king­maker for the new gov­ern­ment.

Prime min­is­ter An­drej Plenkovic (50) hailed Croa­tia’s re­open­ing to hol­i­day­mak­ers last month as ev­i­dence of the HDZ gov­ern­ment’s com­pe­tent han­dling of the coro­n­avirus out­break, and a pos­i­tive sign for a coun­try whose travel in­dus­try ac­counts for about one- fifth of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct.

A spike in in­fec­tions has fu­elled fears of a resur­gence, and yes­ter­day the coun­try of 4.2 mil­lion re­ported 96 new cases – equalling the record daily rise of April 1st. Of­fi­cials say 3,008 peo­ple in Croa­tia have been con­firmed with the virus, and 112 have died.

SDP leader Da­vor Bernardic (40) has ac­cused Mr Plenkovic of en­dan­ger­ing pub­lic health by call­ing the elec­tion dur­ing a pan­demic. Mr Plenkovic ar­gues that Mr Bernardic does not have the ex­pe­ri­ence to guide Croa­tia through such a dif­fi­cult pe­riod.

“This is not the time for po­lit­i­cal

char­la­tanry . . . nor for those who are in­ex­pe­ri­enced and whose pro­gramme is a kind of wish list, with­out any real bud­getary or po­lit­i­cal ba­sis,” he said. “Right now we have a slightly in­creased num­ber of in­fec­tions but, like else­where in the world, in the time ahead we will need to balance be­tween pro­tect­ing pub­lic health and main­tain­ing the economy and tourism.”

Nei­ther main party is ex­pected to se­cure a ma­jor­ity, and they rule out form­ing a “grand coali­tion” to­gether.

An­drej Plenkovic: ‘This is not the time for po­lit­i­cal char­la­tanry’

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