Key Takeaways From Croatia's Parliamentary Elections
Ruling HDZ See Off Opposition – But Face Challenges To Form Governing Coalition

April 19, 2024
Prime Minister Andrej Plenković’s Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) has emerged victorious from Croatia’s parliamentary elections, winning 61 seats in the 151-member assembly according to official results, but falling short of a majority. The party now faces a challenge to form a governing coalition.

Having previously won 66 seats in the 2020 election, Plenković’s HDZ beat the centre-left coalition led by the Social Democrats (SDP), who came in with 42 seats, ahead of the right-wing Homeland Movement with 14 seats. The election on the 17 th of April was seen as a litmus test for Plenković and the HDZ, having overseen Croatia’s accession to the EU, the introduction of the Euro and significant growth in the tourism sector. The long-term support it has enjoyed suffered against a backdrop of corruption scandals, high inflation and voter fatigue with a party in government for almost a decade.

The result is a disappointing one for the SDP, backed by Croatian President Zoran Milanović, who had hoped his emergence in the race would rally support for the SDP, or at least against the HDZ. This failed to manifest, leaving the President in limbo and the party on the back foot.

Croatia now looks set for a period of political instability as the two leading parties attempt to form a coalition across the spectrum. The right-wing Homeland Movement, with 14 seats, is a potential kingmaker, although has yet to reveal which party it would back. Beyond them, the Greens attained 10 seats, with ultra-conservatives receiving 11. As a result, and given the loss of 5 seats from the last election, the HDZ faces an uphill task to form a coalition.

While the HDZ was expected to attain a full majority or at least form a minority cabinet, failure by the SDP to capitalise on socio-political discontent with the political establishment is a definite blow to their prospects. In addition to growing anti-government sentiment over alleged corruption under the HDZ’s rule, Croatian politics has been turned upside down after the SDP-aligned President announced a controversial run for Prime Minister. Milanović aims to succeed his main rival as PM without resigning from office, which has prompted the Constitutional Court to ban him from running for PM. Milanović however has accused the top court of being influenced by HDZ and refused to respect their decision.

Based on the results of the elections, the most likely scenario moving forward is that the Plenković-led HDZ will remain in power, either via a full majority or by receiving sufficient support for a minority cabinet. A less likely scenario is that SDP is able to rally fringe parties effectively to have a chance at forming a government after eight years of HDZ rule.
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