Croatia’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Bridge of Independent Lists (Most) are in negotiations to form a new government, with plans to nominate a prime minister by December 22.
The news that the SPD and Most are continuing negotiations, announced on December 19, indicates that Croatia’s political deadlock is nearly at an end after six weeks of talks. The structure of the possible new government has changed every few days in the past week as Most - which is in kingmaker position after the November general election - sought to bring both the SDP and its main rival the rightwing Croatian Democrat Union (HDZ) into a broad coalition.
Croatia’s November 8 elections ended inconclusively as neither of the two main coalitions - the Patriotic Coalition led by HDZ and the Croatia is Growing coalition led by the SDP - managed to secure enough seats in the parliament to form a majority. As a result, either party would need the support of Most to form a government.
Most, a grouping of independents, has been pushing for a national unity government made up of the three main groups in the new parliament, which would have forced the HDZ and SDP to work together.
The SDP had previously rejected the idea. However, SDP leaders changed their minds after Most said it would continue talks with the HDZ, which had agreed to discuss the proposal.
A coalition government made up of HDZ and Most briefly looked probable, but HDZ, whose coalition gained the largest number of votes in the election, is now likely to be in opposition in the new parliament.
HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko abandoned negotiations and left a joint meeting with SDP leader Zoran Milanovic and Most head Bozo Petrov on December 19. He said he could not endorse the document Most wanted both parties to sign.
“We believe this document is a messy and confusing coalition contract in which no mechanisms are set and there are too many unknowns. It all comes down to how to split the loot, distribute seats in public companies etc.," he said, according to Total Croatia News.
SDP and Most said they will continue negotiations and agree on a prime minister designate by December 22. However, it could be difficult to agree on the prime minister, as Milanovic says the SDP wants to nominate Petrov, while Most insists he or she should be non-partisan.
President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, who was backed by HDZ, has already held three rounds of consultations on the nomination of the future prime minister, for which the support of 76 MPs will be required. A new round of consultations was scheduled for December 22.
While it now appears the new government will to be made up of Most and the SDP’s Croatia is Growing coalition, things can still change. Most has given HDZ 24 hours to reconsider its decision and rejoin the negotiations.