Croatians vote in first election since joining EU

Croatians go to polls to shape their country’s future amid refugee flow

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A man casts his vote at a polling booth in Zagreb.

Croatian began voting in the general elections on Sunday, as EU struggles to cope with the challenges presented by the huge refugee flow into Europe, due to the Syrian civil war that has left almost 250.000 dead and millions of people displaced.

Voters go to polls in a tight race between the governing centre-left alliance, led by Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic's Social Democrats (SDP), and the rival conservative Patriotic Coalition. This is the first parliamentary election in Croatia since it joined the EU in 2013.

Both are striving to form a government in the 151-seat parliament. However, neither party is expected to be able to form a majority government, which may lead to coalition talks with smaller parties.

Croatia's ruling center-left coalition led by Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, had been blamed for the party’s inability to introduce reforms to the country’s public sector and improve the economy, Croatia currently is the EU's weakest and most fragile economy.

Refugee flow to the country, due to the Syrian civil war has become a major problem, as nearly 350,000 migrants have passed through Croatia since mid-September to reach northern Europe.

The HDZ, as a party has dominated Croatian politics since the former Yugoslav republic proclaimed independence in 1991.

HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko said "We will be the winners, you will see tonight," after voting in the capital.

The former spy chief Karamarko, is running in the election with a heavy dose of patriotic rhetoric, which glorifies his party’s late founder and 'Father of the Nation', Franjo Tudjman.

‘’This is a battle for Croatia!" he declared at a 15,000-strong rally on Thursday, accusing his rival SDP, as they have communist roots in the former Yugoslavia and they were anti-independence.

Some voters who are fed up with economic problems are opting for smaller parties like 'Most' (meaning 'Bridge' in Croatian) which could play a key role in the coalition talks.

TRTWorld and agencies