Croa­tia’s con­ser­va­tives win vote; coali­tion talks ahead

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

ZA­GREB: Croa­tia’s con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion won the coun­try’s first elec­tion since it joined the Euro­pean Union in 2013, par­tial re­sults from Sun­day’s elec­tion showed, but its nar­row vic­tory meant lengthy coali­tion talks were likely to fol­low in the next days or weeks. The new gov­ern­ment will have to nur­ture a ten­ta­tive eco­nomic re­cov­ery af­ter six years of re­ces­sion and deal with thou­sands of mi­grants from the Mid­dle East stream­ing through the tiny Adri­atic state on their way to western and north­ern Europe.

Pre­lim­i­nary re­sults af­ter count­ing half of the votes showed Croa­tia is head­ing to­ward a hung par­lia­ment, with the Croa­t­ian Demo­cratic Union (HDZ) win­ning 61 seats in the 151-seat par­lia­ment and the rul­ing cen­tre-left So­cial Demo­cratic Party and its al­lies win­ning 53 seats.

“This vic­tory puts us into po­si­tion to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for lead­ing the coun­try. Ahead of us is a strug­gle to se­cure a bet­ter life in Croa­tia,” the HDZ leader Tomis­lav Kara­marko said. The con­ser­va­tive al­liance HDZ favours a tougher stance than its main ri­val on the mi­grant is­sue, seek­ing stricter bor­der con­trols to man­age the flow of peo­ple cross­ing the small Adri­atic state of 4.4 mil­lion.

Some 338,000 mi­grants have passed through Croa­tia since mid-Septem­ber, cross­ing the bor­der from Ser­bia at a daily rate of 5,000 or some­times 10,000. Few linger in Croa­tia, one of the poor­est EU states where un­em­ploy­ment is at 16 per­cent, well above the bloc’s 9 per­cent av­er­age. Driven largely by eco­nomic con­cerns, the elec­tion fol­lows a land­mark vic­tory by op­po­si­tion con­ser­va­tives in Poland last month. The Pol­ish Law and Jus­tice party pledges to op­pose manda­tory quo­tas for re­lo­ca­tion of mi­grants within the EU and echoes the HDZ’s na­tion­al­ist un­der­tones.

Na­tional iden­tity

The HDZ, which steered Croa­tia to in­de­pen­dence from Serb-dom­i­nated Yu­goslavia in 1991, has ac­cused the out­go­ing cen­tre-left gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Zo­ran Mi­lanovic of be­ing soft and in­ef­fec­tual in han­dling the mi­grant is­sue. “I feel sorry for those peo­ple (mi­grants), but the mi­grant is­sue will not de­ter­mine my vote,” Mar­ija, 71, said. “I will vote for eco­nomic pros­per­ity, a bet­ter life for the young and for the old.” The re­sults showed the Most party, Croat for “bridge”, emerg­ing as the third strong­est group in par­lia­ment with 19 seats. Founded three years ago, the party says it will press for re­forms of a bloated pub­lic sec­tor and for a bet­ter busi­ness cli­mate.

Bozo Petrov, Most leader, said his party would sup­port a fu­ture gov­ern­ment only if it went ahead with re­forms of the ju­di­ciary and pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion, and would seek to im­prove the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment. “For each of those re­forms we would set dead­lines and if dead­lines were not met, we would de­mand a par­lia­men­tary no-con­fi­dence vote. We know that, as things stand now, we con­trol the ma­jor­ity in the par­lia­ment,” he told na­tional broad­caster HRT.

“A new elec­tion is much cheaper than an in­ca­pable gov­ern­ment,” he said. Mi­lanovic says his party de­serves an­other four-year man­date be­cause the econ­omy, heav­ily re­liant on tourism, has started to grow af­ter six years of re­ces­sion that wiped out about 13 per­cent of na­tional out­put. Af­ter re­sults were an­nounced Mi­lanovic called the par­ties ad­vo­cat­ing re­forms, es­pe­cially the Most party, to join him and form a fu­ture coali­tion gov­ern­ment. “We want to go on, we can­not carry on alone and we need part­ners,” he said.

IDOMENI: Mi­grants and refugees cross the bor­der of Greece and Mace­do­nia near the vil­lage of Idomeni, north­ern Greece yes­ter­day. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion on Novem­ber 5 es­ti­mated that some three mil­lion mi­grants flee­ing war and poverty will be en­ter­ing the EU by 2017 in a de­vel­op­ment likely to have a mar­ginal pos­i­tive im­pact on the econ­omy.

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