Croatia moved closer to holding a new election on Thursday when parliament convened for the first time after an inconclusive vote on Nov. 8 and its speaker-elect turned down the job after failing to win cross-party support. President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic held an unsuccessful first round of talks last week on forming a coalition cabinet as the minority party that holds the balance of power could not decide which party to back. She set the next round for Dec. 7. The opposition conservative HDZ party won 59 seats in the 151-seat parliament, three seats more than the incumbent Social Democrats-led centre-left coalition. Reformist newcomers “Most”, Croatian for “bridge”, has 19 seats. Whoever wins the support of at least 76 deputies will become prime-minister designate.
Croatia’s president on Monday called a parliamentary election for November 8, a vote expected to be a tight race as the EU member grapples with a migrant influx and a weak economy. The polls will pit the current centre-left government, led by the Social Democrats (SDP), against the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party. The announcement comes as the former Yugoslav republic struggles to cope with the arrival of tens of thousands of migrants, who have been travelling through the country since mid-September in the hope of reaching western Europe. “I have decided that parliamentary elections will be held on Sunday, November 8,” said a statement from President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who was elected Croatia’s first female president in January.
In an unexpectedly tight runoff, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, a conservative challenger, won Croatia’s election on Sunday and is set to become the country’s first female president. With more than 99 percent of the ballots counted, Ms. Grabar-Kitarovic, 46, won 50.4 percent of the votes, compared with 49.6 percent for President Ivo Josipovic, the center-left incumbent, the electoral commission said. The election took place in a climate of deep pessimism about Croatia’s economy. The newest member of the European Union, Croatia has one of the weakest economies in the bloc, with an unemployment rate of nearly 20 percent and youth unemployment running at 41.5 percent. “Let’s go together,” Ms. Grabar-Kitarovic of the opposition Croatian Democratic Union said late Sunday in a speech laced with patriotic wording and interrupted by nationalist soccer chants. “A difficult job awaits us. Let’s unite. Let’s unite our patriotism, love and faith in our Croatian homeland.”