Croat Parties Fail to Agree on Coalition in Deepening Standoff

Croatian political parties extended a standoff sparked by last month’s inconclusive elections, with an opinion poll showing voters are split over whether they expect coalition talks to lead to a new government or an early ballot.

A proposal to create a broad coalition by the Most party, which is playing potential kingmaker after a third-place finish in the Nov. 8 parliamentary vote, was rejected Monday by the ruling Social Democrats and the opposition Croatian Democratic Union, which both won more support. The parties agreed to meet again in a week, and President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic said she’d formally speak with them then in an attempt to name a premier-designate.

“Unfortunately it turned out today that no party has a majority of all members of parliament” to back a prime minister candidate in a vote of confidence, Grabar Kitarovic said in Zagreb on Monday. “I will hold the next round of consultations early next week.”

The political standoff is threatening to undermine an economic recovery in the Adriatic state of 4.2 million people, which is going to show its first annual growth this year since 2008. While Most wants the three biggest parties to join it in government Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic’s Social Democrats and the Croatian Democratic Union, known as HDZ, are both claiming the right to lead coalition talks and the government.

Early Election?

Croatian voters are divided on their outlook for the coalition talks, according to a survey by polling company Promocija Plus. The greatest number, or 24 percent, expect a HDZ-Most government, followed by 23 percent see Most joining the Social Democrats. About 17 percent predict an early election, according to the poll of 1,300 Croats, Jutarnji list newspaper reported Monday.

The two bigger parties have refused to work together in government, yet neither has a majority and will need the support of Most to rule. Most has threatened to force an early election if its demands aren’t met.

“We’ve said clearly what happens next,” Most leader Bozo Petrov said after meeting Kitarovic. “If we are refused by both groups, then we will have new elections as far as we are concerned.”

Most’s plan to name a technocrat premier to lead a grand-coalition “isn’t a good idea,” Milanovic said. His deputy, Vesna Pusic, said Most should name its candidate to lead the government to see if he or she has support.

Croatia’s euro-denominated bond maturing in March, 2025 was little changed at 4:12 a.m. in Zagreb. The yield was 4.162 percent, its highest point since Nov. 11, and compared to 3.268 percent when it was issued on March 11.