Croatia’s senior ruling HDZ proposes Finance Minister Maric for prime minister

Croatia’s senior ruling HDZ proposes Finance Minister Maric for prime minister
By bne IntelliNews June 13, 2016

Croatia’s senior coalition partner Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) confirmed Finance Minister Zdravko Maric as its candidate for prime minister designate on June 13, a party statement said. Croatia’s current Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic is expected to be ousted in a confidence vote due to take place this week.

Political turmoil in Croatia is ongoing. The no-confidence vote against Oreskovic is expected to be held before the June 18 deadline for a no-confidence vote against Deputy Prime Minister and HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko. The HDZ claims it has a new coalition in place. However, early elections still seem to be the strongest possibility looking at the current parliamentary arithmetic, although a possible snap election seems unlikely to bring about a radically different result from last November’s election, and is even less likely to address Croatia’s deep-seated economic challenges.

Domagoj Ivan Milosevic, secretary-general of HDZ, said on June 9 that the party has the support of a sufficient number of deputies in the parliament to regroup the parliamentary majority and carry out a government reshuffle. Milosevic did not identify HDZ’s new coalition partners, resulting in some scepticism about his claim to have a new majority lined up.

Oreskovic said on June 10 during a speech to the parliament that he will not resign before the non-confidence vote, About Croatia reported. Oreskovic hopes that the parliament will adopt a decision that will offer an opportunity for the current government to continue functioning and he is convinced that the government can do so, according to About Croatia.

HDZ Vice-President Oleg Butkovic commented on June 10 that the party would not have nominated Maric as prime minister-designate if they were not sure of their new parliamentary majority, according to Reuters.

Tim Ash from Nomura Securities said on June 13 in an e-mailed comment that “it is unclear now whether senior coalition member Most will support Maric”. Ash expects Oreskovic to lose the non-confidence vote this week and he also expects the president will  again mandate HDZ - as the biggest party in the parliament - to form the new government.

On June 10, Ash said that Maric’s appointment as new PM, which would avoid early elections, would be market positive, as it would result in more focus on economic reform. Having a market-friendly and credible person in the post of prime minister would be cause for encouragement with upcoming Brexit risk, according to Ash.

However, the HDZ's junior partner Bridge of Independent Lists (Most) said on June 11 on its Facebook page that it expected the HDZ to withdraw the no-confidence motion against the prime minister and to propose the candidate for deputy prime minister in place of Karamarko. If the HDZ carries out its plan to topple the prime minister and his cabinet, Most sees an early election as the only option, the statement from Most read.

Most head Bozo Petrov called on the HDZ to line up the 76 deputies allegedly supporting it in parliament for a government reshuffle or to nominate someone else to replace Karamarko as deputy prime minister. Otherwise a snap election will be called, Petrov added.

Meanwhile, three deputies from the Most resigned from the party and formed their own independent parliament group, About Croatia also reported.

One of the three, Ivan Lovrinovic, said that to avoid a new election which would cost Croatia dearly, they will try to form an efficient government but that nobody would get unconditional support. In order to turn in the right direction, Oreskovic and his two deputies, Karamarko and Petrov, should leave, Lovrinovic added.

Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic, a Most deputy, said on June 10 that Karamarko's “unacceptable behavior” should be punished or new elections should be called. Most representatives uncovered Karamarko’s wife Ana Karamarko’s business relationship with a lobbyist for Hungarian oil company MOL, which precipitated the current crisis.

On June 10, Croatia’s conflict of interest commission said in a statement that it will announce its decision in the Karamarko case on June 15, About Croatia reported.

The main opposition SDP leader Zoran Milanovic said on June 10 that Most’s support would be essential if early elections are to be called, according to About Croatia.

The SDP has started collecting signatures to dissolve parliament. The main opposition party aims to collect a majority of at least 76 MPs, to force the parliament speaker to put the item on the agenda. Milanovic claimed on June 10 that the party already had enough signatures, and that early elections were also favoured by 70% of the electorate, according to a party statement.