Croatian citizens are heading to polling stations on Sunday to vote in an early election that is unlikely to produce an absolute winner.
Some 3.8 million Croatians are eligible to cast ballots. Polling stations close at 1700 GMT and the first official results are due at around 2000 GMT.
Sunday’s election is the country’s second in less than a year. It has been called as the former Yugoslav republic faces economic problems due to political instability in the country.
The previous election in January produced a fragile coalition government. However, the coalition led by the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) collapsed last June, after spending 5 months in power.
The collapse was triggered by rows over political appointments, public administration reforms and a conflict of interest case.
Croatia is the European Union’s newest member. The EU expects its member to tame high public debt, reduce the budget deficit and improve the business climate to spur economic growth. But, political uncertainty has hampered the nation’s efforts to catch up with the rest of the block.
It also affected the country’s international relations. The competition among the political parties has strained the country’s ties with Balkan states, because rival politicians have drawn on the memories of the Balkan Wars and the World War Two to gain public support.
No absolute winner expected
Opinion polls suggest that neither the HDZ, nor the left-leaning Social Democrats and their People's Coalition, will win enough votes to rule alone, though the leftist alliance has been projected as taking a slight lead.
This means that some of the smaller groups could play the role of kingmakers, as was the case with the pro-reform Most group in the previous government. Some analysts predict that the next government may take months to form and end up as weak as the previous one.
Any government faces an enormous task in revitalising one of the EU's weakest economies, which is dominated by state enterprises and where red tape deters private investment.