Croatian President Sees Coalition Talks Inching Forward

  • President Kitarovic sets next round of party talks for Oct. 10
  • HDZ, Bridge parties report advance in coalition negotiations

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic said political parties were moving toward forming a “stable” coalition government after inconclusive elections. She set Oct. 10 as the date for the next round of negotiations.

“While the talks today showed no one controls the necessary majority of elected deputies to receive the mandate to form the government, I am pleased with the dynamics of the talks," Kitarovic said in a live TV address Wednesday, convening the new assembly’s first session for Oct. 14.

Although Kitarovic didn’t identify potential coalition partners, the only government talks since the Sept. 11 vote have taken place between the Croatian Democratic Union, which gained the most votes, and the third-placed Bridge party.

Andrej Plenkovic, leader of the Democratic Union, known as HDZ, told reporters earlier Wednesday that his party is “hopeful” that it will be able to secure enough votes after three rounds of talks with Bridge. While HDZ and Bridge would together control 74 seats, still short of the 76 needed for majority in the 151-seat parliament, HDZ has signaled it may also reach out to smaller factions and to eight minority deputies, who often align with the coalition builders.

Coalition Collapse

Croatia has been in political turmoil since the governing coalition collapsed in June amid a conflict-of-interest scandal. The events have derailed a planned administrative overhaul and threatened to undermine economic recovery from the longest recession on record which ended in 2014. The government last month raised this year’s growth forecast to 2.5 percent, from the previous prediction of 2 percent.

A premier-designate must demonstrate to Kitarovic that they have the support of at least 76 deputies in the 151-seat parliament. Even after a prime minister is designated, the proposed premier will then have up to 60 days to form a cabinet and obtain approval from a parliament still reeling from the coalition tussles and scandals this year.

Conservative HDZ won 61 seats, defeating the Social Democrats who secured 54. Bridge won 13.

HDZ has pledged to cut the income and value added taxes and reduce public debt that’s reached 87 percent of gross domestic product. Bridge, an alliance of local mayors that won support from voters disillusioned with dominant political forces, has set a list of conditions for cooperation that include creating an exclusive economic and fishing zone in the Adriatic Sea, cutting benefits for politicians and lawmakers, and exerting more control over the central bank, a goal that’s already drawn criticism from the European Central Bank.

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