Croatia Rumbles Toward Snap Vote After Government’s Collapse

  • President calls for debate on bill to dissolve parliament
  • Majority of lawmakers back motion to disband, initiate ballot

Croatia’s president called for parliament to debate a motion to dissolve itself and trigger early elections, snuffing a plan by the country’s biggest party to form a new ruling coalition a day after it ousted its own prime minister and cabinet.

President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic said that no political party could muster a ruling majority and appealed to Parliament Speaker Zeljko Reiner, a member of the Croatian Democratic Union that initiated the fall of the government, to allow lawmakers to debate and vote on the motion as soon as possible.

“No party has shown me they have secured a majority, while the majority of deputies support the dissolution of parliament and early elections,” Kitarovic said after meeting political party leaders on Friday.

The call for an early election ends a tortuous four months of wrangling between the Croatian Democratic Union, a nationalist party known as HDZ, and the smaller Bridge party made up of mayors and independents. It also ends a drive by Tihomir Oreskovic, Croatia’s first non-aligned prime minister, to push through measures to cut public spending and debt and sell state assets to help the the Adriatic state recover from a record recession.

A motion to break up the assembly and call a snap vote has already been signed by 82 members of the 151-seat parliament, Vesna Pusic, the leader of the opposition People’s Party, said by phone on Friday. She said Reiner had told her that parliament will start debating the measure at noon on June 20.

“Let’s not prolong the agony,” Pusic told Bloomberg. “We must bring the decision to dissolve the parliament as soon as possible and aim for an election after the summer.”

Hurting HDZ

Kitarovic, a former member of HDZ, poured cold water on HDZ’s plan to form a new cabinet led by market-friendly Finance Minister Zdravko Maric. It’s also a blow to HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko, who initiated the no-confidence motion against Oreskovic and resigned on Wednesday after being censured for conflict of interest in dealings with Hungarian refiner Mol Nyrt.

Karamarko was the second HDZ leader to be accused of wrongdoing linked to Mol, which both he and the Hungarian company have denied. In 2014, a court censured the party, which has traded power with the opposition Social Democrats since the nation of 4.1 million people broke off from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, for graft. It also convicted former HDZ leader and Prime Minister Ivo Sanader of bribery and abuse of power in a case that will be retried. Still, Karamarko refused to admit defeat.

“The situation is not good for us,” he told reporters after speaking with Kitarovic. “But we are still trying to gather support.”

Oreskovic, a former pharmaceutical executive who was raised in Canada, will remain as caretaker with his cabinet in the interval. With the prospect of a new election, the yield of the country’s euro-denominated debt maturing in 2025 slid three basis points to 3.795 percent at 2:27 p.m. in Zagreb.

HDZ was in a dead heat with the Social Democrats in opinion polls at 29 percent, according to an Ipsos Puls poll published by Nova TV on May 26 before the no-confidence motion against Oreskovic was launched. Bridge was third with 7.9 percent in the poll of 962 likely voters, with the margin of error estimated at 3.6 percentage points.

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