Guy Norton in Zagreb -
As was widely expected, the political landscape in both Croatia and Slovenia has changed as a result of the parliamentary elections on Sunday, December 4.
In Croatia, which on December 2 was approved by an overwhelming majority in the European parliament to be the 28th member of the EU, the incumbent right-wing government led by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party suffered a widely expected defeat, with Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor's HDZ garnering a likely total of just 47 seats (44 in Croatia plus three from the diaspora) in the 151 seats in the Sabor, the country's parliament, according to preliminary results. That is sharply down from the 65 it won in 2007.
By contrast the left-wing Kukuriku coalition (named after a restaurant in Kastav where the four parties agreed to go to the polls together) was set to gain at least 81 seats in the next parliament. The coalition comprises the Social Democrat Party (SDP), the Croatian People's Party (HNS), the Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS) and the Croatian Party of Pensioners (HSU). The Kukuriku Coalition can also count on the eight seats automatically allocated to national minorities in Croatia, which traditionally ally themselves with the winning parties in parliamentary elections. These include Serbs with three seats, and one each from the Hungarian, Italians, Czech, Roma and Albanian minorities.
In an interview with bne at the Kukuriku' Coalition's celebration party at Zagreb's Museum of Contemporary Arts, Vesna Pusic, vice president of the HNS and the favourite to become foreign minister in the new administration, said the fact that the Kukuriku Coalition was firmly on course to receive an absolute majority was "proof of a strong desire for political change".
With regard to the relatively low overall , roughly 55%, she said the fact that in the constituencies where the Kukuriku was favourite to win the turnout was much higher, whereas in traditional strongholds of the HDZ it was much lower, she claimed illustrated voters' enthusiasm for new political faces to take the helm in Croatia.
In his victory address, Zoran Milanovic, the Kukuriku Coalition's candidate for prime minister said: "There is a big responsibility and a big task ahead of us. We will not let you down."
For the HDZ, the outcome of Sunday's poll undoubtedly represents a sharp setback, but nevertheless it outperformed pre-election opinion polls, which predicted that the HDZ would land just 35 seats. That means that Jadranka Kosor might possibly defeat calls for her to be ousted as president of HDZ, which was hit by a wave of corruption scandals in the past year that have seen a raft of HDZ officials arrested. That, combined with Croatia's lacklustre economic performance - GDP, after falling for the past three years, is forecast to expand by just 0.5% at best this year - is widely blamed for its lame performance. The fact that Kosor is set to sign Croatia's accession treaty with the EU in Brussels on December 9 seems to have cut little ice with Croatian voters, many of whom clearly felt that they are set to join a politically and economically bankrupt organization on July 1. 2013.
Change in Slovenia
Meanwhile, in Slovenia, the outgoing leftwing coalition government headed by the Social Democrats (SD) of prime minister Borut Pahor, secured just above 10% of the vote for the 90-seat National Assembly. Slovenia, like Croatia is facing the grim prospect of GDP expanding by just 0.5% this year.
Latest results put Positive Slovenia, the centre-left party recently formed by Zoran Jankovic, the mayor of Slovenia's capital Ljubljana, as the leading political force in the financially-embattled EU and Eurozone member state with almost 30% of the vote. The Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) headed by Janez Jansa, who led the country from 2004-08 was running a close second, with around 26% of the vote.
Pahor is thus set to become the latest leader of a Eurozone country to be ousted by disgruntled voters - following Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain.
Jankovic and his Positive Slovenia party will now have to indulge in some heavy-duty political horse trading to try to build a viable coalition with a sustainable parliamentary majority. He claimed the results show that citizens want a different state. "They had Jansa and Pahor, now they want a democratic but efficient state."
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