Croatia’s ruling conservatives winning parliamentary vote


ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) – The ruling conservatives are overwhelmingly winning Croatia’s parliamentary elections held Sunday amid a spike in new coronavirus cases as the latest European Union member leans further to the right, according to partial official results.

With over 60 percent of the vote counted, the governing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) is projected to win 68 seats in Croatia’s 151-seat parliament and is likely to form a new coalition government with smaller right-wing groups.

An alliance led by the liberal Social Democratic Party, the main opposition party, won 43 seats while in third place is the right-wing Homeland Movement led by folk singer Miroslav Skoro with 15 seats.

The Homeland Movement was recently formed and swiftly gained popularity despite public outrage over some of its staunchly hard-line and nationalist views. The party is believed to have chipped away some of the votes from HDZ, which has dominated the political scene in Croatia since gaining independence from the Serb-led Yugoslavia in 1991.

Croatia has faced a surge in coronavirus cases that followed reopening of the country’s borders and easing of lockdown rules, struggling to salvage its main source of revenue – tourism along the Adriatic Sea coast.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, who is the HDZ leader, said upon voting on Sunday that anti-virus recommendations are being respected and urged people to come out to vote.

“Democracy means that citizens get to have their say, and today is such a moment when we all get to meet the will of the people,” Plenkovic said. “I’m looking forward to the choice made by our citizens and also to continue working for the benefit of Croatia.”

A country of 4.2 million people, Croatia has kept the outbreak largely under control, reporting 113 deaths and around 3,100 confirmed infections. But Plenkovic was criticized over an outbreak at a tennis tournament organized by top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the coastal town of Zadar.

The Restart coalition led by SDP has alleged the government is plagued by corruption and voters should choose a new beginning if they want the country to move forward.

“Today your future is being decided, the fate of your families will be decided, and the future of our country,” SDP leader Davor Bernardic said. “Every vote counts. Do not throw away your vote, and don’t let somebody else decide for you. We offered a clear alternative, a clear direction, and a clear vision of the future.”

Right-wing Skoro also called for change, saying that “today voters decide and politicians wait in anticipation.”

“I hope that voters will come out in large numbers and I hope that they will make a right decision and that after this election we will have necessary changes that we all expect,” he said.

About 3.8 million people were eligible to vote. Voters were advised to take their own temperature and stay away from polling stations if they had a fever.

Andrej Plenkovic, Croatia’s Prime Minister incumbent casts his ballot at a polling station in Zagreb, Croatia, Sunday, July 5, 2020. Amid a spike of new coronavirus cases, voters in Croatia cast ballots on Sunday in what is expected be a close parliamentary race that could push the latest European Union member state further to the right. (AP Photo)