Croatia: What Lied Beneath – Electorate Boundaries Law Made Null and Void

It has been almost a quarter of a century since boundaries of electorates/constituencies in Croatia were drawn! The question arises then: how legitimate under the principle of democracy were all elections for the government in that time when proportional and equal representation in parliament was not had and the Electoral Roll never updated even though almost a million or 21% of the total population was lost, affecting quite drastically the number of leftover voters in many constituencies? The question also arises, given its warnings to government and parliament regarding unconstitutional distribution of votes by electorates since 2010 how could the same Constitutional Court officially decide that 2020 General Elections were legal, and so were all elections before it since 2010!? It is obvious to me that the Court’s credibility is on same thin ice and the government’s and that the so-called democratic decency is dished out by both at a whim and not as a rule.

To make decisions that aim at voter equality or equal weight of all eligible voters under the Constitution of a state would be a task that encompasses all eligible voters. But not in Croatia. Its Constitutional Court, when insisting of voter weight equality, has just circumvented the voting rights of voters living in the diaspora!

A redistribution of votes is the redrawing of electoral boundaries to ensure, as near as practicable that each electorate or constituency, each state, region etc., gains representation in parliament in proportion to their population. Electorates or constituencies and their fair borders and voter distribution play a key role in every democracy, we quite frequently come across this exercise in democracy in the West or other developed democracies and Croatia is finally catching up it seems. It was back in 2010 when the Constitutional Court first warned the Croatian parliament about excessive deviations in the number of voters by constituency/electorate. But nothing was done about it and indeed the persisting stories of vote thefts, electoral fraud since then are beginning to look like reality. The status of inequality also meant that the Electoral Roll was not up to scratch and contained many dead people etc-, and this suited both the SDP (Social Democratic Party) and the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) governments.

It’s been a big week for the Croatian legislation regarding Electorates, albeit regretfully no word on the 11th Electorate (Diaspora) or the 12th (ethnic minorities).

The Constitutional Court of Croatia said Tuesday 7 February that the existing law on electorates within Croatia violates the principle of equal weight for each voter’s vote – deviations between electorates should not exceed 5%, it said.

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia has repealed the Law on Electorates, rendering it invalid as of October 1, 2023, by which time the Croatian Parliament should ensure the implementation of the constitutional guarantee of equal voting rights. “Referring to the data of the State Electoral Commission of the Republic of Croatia on the number of voters by constituencies/electorates in the elections for members of the Croatian Parliament held on November 25, 2007 and the fact that, due to migration, demographic and other changes in the structure of eligible voting body, there is a violation of the principle of equal weight of the voter voice, the Constitutional Court emphasised the necessity of amending or supplementing the Electorate Law. It warned that changes in the number of voters in the general electorates determined by this law must be constantly monitored and, if necessary, periodically adjusted to the actual number of voters in them,” the court said in its decision.

The Constitutional Court’s decision to repeal the Law on Electorates and its directives that the borders of future electorates should coincide as much as possible with administrative-territorial units could end up with less than current 10 Electorates within Croatia and the two that cover the Diaspora and Ethnic Minorities’ representative seats in parliament.  

The Croatian Constitution court boasts of its fairness through pointing to inequalities in the weight of votes, hence, voter inequality and yet turns a blind eye on inequalities and severe underweight suffered by voters in the Diaspora and the overweight of Ethnic Minorities’ electorates! The access to polling booths in the diaspora electorate, electorate XI, has been appalling since HDZ government changed the rules to accommodate voting to only head offices of Diplomatic Consular Missions when prior to that polling booths were also at Croatian Clubs, easily accessible to most voters. The way things have stood in this diaspora electorate, who has three parliamentary seats, is that most voters simply cannot access the polling booths due to distance and cost, and electronic polling has consistently been denied.  

New General elections in Croatia are due in 2024 and speculators and punters are going for March or April, which would make it an early election given that the last elections were early July 2020. Hence, if these dates prove to be correct the current parliament’s mandate would be deprived of a quarter of a year or three months of its intended mandate duration.  

The Constitutional Court of Croatia found differences in the number of voters between many constituencies or electorates, and that the extent of the deviation leads to conclusion that there would be a high probability of direct influence on the final outcome of the election procedure if elections were conducted according to the existing legal provisions.

In this decision on the repeal of the current law, the Constitutional Court commenced from its previous practice, that is, the principled positions expressed in December 2010 and September 2015, according to the Court. They point out that from the first warning in 2010 until today, the Parliament has not reacted in accordance with its powers, and the Constitutional Court has abolished the Law on Electoral Units.

Since 2010, the Constitutional Court has been warning of the need to change the regulations governing parliamentary elections, because some constituencies/electorates were already violating the legal requirement that the number of voters should not deviate from the average by more than five percent, the Court reported in the context of the decision.

In the meantime, two population censuses were conducted, and the results of the last one showed that these discrepancies had increased to a level that could call into question the constitutionality of the next elections. The recommendation to the legislator is not to wait for October 1, but to pass the new or amended Electorate law as soon as possible.

The update and revision of the voter register or Electoral Roll would need to be completed for any fair electorate boundaries decisions. Passing of the new or amended Electorate law is part and parcel of electoral roll being completed and how all that can be done by end of September 2023 leaves quite a bit of room for speculation and shonky business.

It is evident that the judges of the Constitutional Court in Croatia appear to have finally realised that their reports and warnings to government and parliament are not enough and that the parliamentary elites will continue to ignore them unless they reach for the repeal of the law. These 13 years that have passed since the report of the Constitutional Court on the unequal weight of the voter’s vote in the electorates, in which the judges already warned about the violation of the constitutional principle of equal voting rights, speak volumes about the attitude of the political elites in Croatia towards the Constitutional Court. The political elites, and above all the decades old alternating HDZ and SDP government parties, ignored the warnings of the Constitutional Court, but also of political scientists and expert organisations that the existing constituencies are unconstitutional, which in any case does not serve them well. Indeed, it points to retention of the electorate environment for electoral corruption and election fraud.

“The Constitutional Court found that the difference in the number of voters between a large number of constituencies, which derive from independent official sources, and which have been present for a long period of time, casts doubt on the democratic character of the entire election, given the obvious deviation from the substantial aspect of the guarantee of equal and universal suffrage rights from Article 45 of the Constitution. Moreover, the scope of the deviation indicates a high probability of a direct and immediate influence on the outcome of the election procedure if it were to be carried out according to the existing legal provisions”, said the President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia, Miroslav Separovic.

Now the question of all questions in the Croatian public space is: how many constituencies will Croatia have in the next parliamentary elections in 2024? How many constituencies should Croatia have and how many members of parliament should each region have?

Minister of Justice and Administration Ivan Malenica (HDZ) said during the week that “Changing the boundaries of electoral units is always a complex and complex move because it requires that the units be of equal size, according to the Croatian system, that would be about 360,000”. Why he would insist on equal size when acceptable deviations or differences up to 5% are the practice is anyone’s guess. He pointed out further that a much easier model would be to use a proportional system in the existing constituencies, which have been in force for 23 years “and the citizens have already identified with them”, to be elected depending on the number of voters. Well, that sounds to me like voter-loyalty fixing!

The parliamentary opposition parties, on the other hand, say that the above-mentioned decision of the Constitutional Court is “grossly late”. The SDP, a major opposition party in parliament, reminds that last year their party submitted a proposal to amend the Law on Electoral Units to the parliamentary procedure, but that it “wasted on the parliamentary agenda”. The SDP proposes six instead of the current 10 electoral units, and they would follow the geographical and administrative borders of the counties. In the same context, the Patriotic Movement (Domovinski pokret) part of the parliamentary opposition resurrected as a mention the long-standing appeal by others of postal electronic voting, because an increasing number of citizens with voting rights are outside Croatia.

The voter population has drastically declined: in late 1990’s the population was 4.7 million, in 2021 census 3.8 million. The decline is mainly attributed to emigration in search of work and a better life. I hope that the voters in the diaspora electorates will also receive due consideration on at least equal access to polling at the next general elections in 2024! Ina Vukic


  1. The 7th February judgment of the Supreme Court of Croatia is really commendable . Now the Government and the Parliament of Croatia have to ensure equal voting rights to all the citizens of Croatia . Thanks for sharing !

  2. Americaoncoffee says:

    Good thing!

  3. Amazing post it 😊❤😉


  1. […] Bar it’s head or President a brand-new Croatian Electoral Commission has been sworn in on Thursday last week to meet the most challenging electoral year in Croatia’s modern history. The Electoral Commission will soon face a very rare challenge, and that is the next year, 2024, when Croatia will have triple elections: those for members of the European Parliament, those for the Parliament and those for the President of the Republic. To make the year “more interesting” the Parliamentary elections will be operating under the new Electoral law ordered recently by the Croatian Constitutional Court. […]

  2. […] Bar it’s head or President a brand-new Croatian Electoral Commission has been sworn in on Thursday last week to meet the most challenging electoral year in Croatia’s modern history. The Electoral Commission will soon face a very rare challenge, and that is the next year, 2024, when Croatia will have triple elections: those for members of the European Parliament, those for the Parliament and those for the President of the Republic. To make the year “more interesting” the Parliamentary elections will be operating under the new Electoral law ordered recently by the Croatian Constitutional Court. […]

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