Croatia focused on no-confidence vote against Finance Minister Maric following coalition split

Croatia focused on no-confidence vote against Finance Minister Maric following coalition split
By Akin Nazli in Belgrade April 30, 2017

A rough week is anticipated in the Croatian parliament, which will determine the political future of the Adriatic country amid an expected confidence vote to be held against Finance Minister Zdravko Maric.

Croatia is again in a political crisis just a few months after the second Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) – Bridge of Independent Lists (Most) coalition was formed, achieving temporary political stability after the September 2016 snap polls. Another early election seems unlikely at this stage as Prime Minister and HDZ leader Andrej Plenkovic is expected to form a new – even though slim – majority in the parliament.

The main opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) called a no-confidence vote against Maric, a former Agrokor manager, earlier in April . The party accused him of being responsible for the crisis at the struggling company

The current crisis within the ruling coalition erupted on April 27 when three of junior coalition partner Most’s four ministers – Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic, Minister of Justice Anto Sprlje and Energy Minister Slaven Dobrovic – surprisingly voted against a government motion to support Maric at a cabinet meeting. The party’s fourth minister was not present.  

In response to Most’s unexpected move, Plenkovic took a controversial decision to sack all four Most ministers and also many state secretaries. As an initial reaction, Most has voiced that the prime minister’s decision was unconstitutional. The coalition government collapsed after Most ministers withdrew from the cabinet later on April 28.

SDP leader Davor Bernardic announced on April 29 that his party was launching a fresh no confidence motion against Economy Minister Martina Dalic over conflict of interest in also Agrokor case, according to Hina.

In a counter move, the HDZ collected 79 signatures to oust parliament speaker and Most leader Bozo Petrov.

Discussions on the order of the confidence votes in parliament are underway. 

Croatia is back into political uncertainty at a time when the economy is making a strong recovery after years of recession, which could result in further holdups to planned reforms.

Teneo Intelligence said on April 28 in an e-mailed note that it expected Plenkovic to form a new majority, but that “the renewed political instability is bad news for Croatia’s reform outlook”. 

“The HDZ-led administration is expected to remain committed to its ambitious policy agenda, which entails the stabilisation of the fiscal situation, reform of the public administration and pension systems, privatisation of state-owned enterprises and multiple improvements to the business environment,” wrote Teneo CEE advisor Andrius Tursa. 

“However, the likely weaker parliamentary support could reduce HDZ’s ability to push through potentially unpopular legislations, thus slowing down the reform progress,” he added. 

If the HDZ manages to gain the support of 79 MPs to defend its minister in the upcoming confidence vote, it will be perceived as a strong sign of the party’s ability to form a new majority.

The HDZ currently has 58 MPs in the 151-seat parliament. If Plenkovic could manage to attract the support of 18 MPs from other parties, he will be able to form a new coalition government.

The vice-president of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, told reporters on April 27 he believes that all eight minority MPs would continue to support HDZ in forming new majority.

Ivan Vrdoljak, the president of the small but influential liberal-left Croatian People’s Party (HNS), dismissed on April 27 speculation that HNS would be part of the new coalition government. On April 29, Vrdoljak said that HNS would support the replacement of all Maric, Dalic and Bozov.

The president of the anti-establishment Zivi Zid (Human Shield), Ivan Vilibor Sincic, also reiterated one more time that his party, which surprisingly increased its seats to eight at the latest snap election in September 2016 from just one in November 2015, is closed to any coalition options.

The previous coalition between HDZ and Most, which was formed following the November 2015 elections, was also collapsed after the Most decided to support a no-confidence vote against the then HDZ leader and then deputy prime minister Tomislav Karamarko. However, the parties formed a second coalition after the September 2016 election under Plenkovic. 

The Adriatic country is currently also headed to local elections, to be held on May 21. Plenkovic denied the split from Most was linked to the upcoming polls. “If a snap poll will be held, it could be on June 6 together with the second round of local elections or otherwise as early as in September”, according to Total Croatia News.