Croatian politicians have Monday 20 June voted to dissolve the parliament, paving the way for snap elections after bringing down the fragile five-month old government last week through vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic.
The dissolution of parliament “will become effective on July 15“, speaker Zeljko Reiner said on Monday 20 June. 137 members in the 151-seat assembly backed the dissolution move.
The new election, a snap vote, is likely to happen in early September, as it must be held no earlier than 30 days and no later than 60 days after the date when parliament is dissolved. President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who will choose the election date, said she would take account of the fact that most parties were in favour of holding the vote after the summer holidays.
At the same time, the majority coalition party in government, HDZ with Tomislav Karamarko at its head, did not succeed in mustering up enough support (76 seats) to restructure a new government. Hence, Tomislav Karamarko has resigned as party leader, leaving the party leadership slate clean for fresh talent with the most chance of beating by a good margin the centre-left Social Democrats at the polls.
Karamarko said his resignation will give his party a better chance in the snap elections “this act creates space for new impulses.”
“I am resigning in the interest of the party, not because of pressure,” Karamarko said. “I had promised my party that I will be able to create a political majority and I failed, so I take responsibility for that.”
Last November’s election produced a fragile, minority government that was catapulted into power through coalition with Most/Bridge independents and appointing a non-elected Prime Minister. Had there been more experience in this kind of government perhaps all would have been well but, regretfully, the government became the focus of staged scandals by the opposition, disputes over sensitive political appointments, public administration reforms that would mean big job cuts, and Karamarko’s conflict of interest case. Had all this not ended the way it did, had Karamarko not resigned there would have surely been new scandals to bring the government down. This government was doomed from the start and, I would say, much of the blame could be directed at the ousted Prime Minister who, it seems, lost his way somewhere along the line and forgot that HDZ had a list of reforms that needed to be implemented and because of which it was elected as a relative majority in parliament.
The prospects of new election results do not point to a much better or different situation. If an elected majority is not a convincing majority, a minority government would again take power joining into a coalition with minor parties or independents and political instability comparable to the one we have just seen in Croatia could well re-emerge. This of course would produce more lasting negative influences on investments upon which reforms and economic recovery depend.
HDZ has a huge job to do in the coming weeks if it wants to win government again and much of this work will be safely in the bag if its new leader is a figure many in and out of current HDZ support can respect. Such a person, in my opinion is Andrej Plenkovic, currently HDZ Member of EU Parliament, who has already declared he’ll put his hand up for candidacy. It needs to be kept in mind that HDZ won a relative majority of seats in parliament with promised reforms that have yet to be tested and implemented and if cards are played right with the people, this, and not the confusion of the political crisis just gone, will be in voters minds when they go to the polls in September.
Voters know that Croatia needs decisive reforms to fix its fragile public finances, reduce public debt, which now stands at 86% of GDP, improve the investment climate and stimulate growth. All of this has now been placed on a backburner as snap elections loom. HDZ would do well to reassure the electorate that the reforms needed, and more, are ready to go despite the unwelcome albeit temporary setback with the political crisis just gone. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)