Most leader Petrov resigns as Croatia’s parliament speaker

Most leader Petrov resigns as Croatia’s parliament speaker
By Akin Nazli in Belgrade May 5, 2017

Bridge of Independent Lists (Most) leader Bozo Petrov resigned on May 4 from his post as Croatia’s parliament speaker, saying he wanted to protect the parliament’s dignity. 

This is the latest step in Croatia’s ongoing political crisis, which has seen the coalition between the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and Most split acrimoniously after Most ministers refused to throw their support behind Finance Minister Zdravko Maric ahead of a no-confidence vote. Maric narrowly survived the vote earlier on May 4, and the HDZ is now looking for support for its government among MPs following the loss of its coalition partner.

Currently, the political parties are discussing how they will act on electing a new parliament speaker. President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic is holding informal talks with political parties. However, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic will not attend the meeting with the president due to an official visit to Austria.

Putting further pressure on Plenkovic, it is currently unclear whether the HDZ has a majority. MPs were evenly split in the confidence vote, with 75 voting in favour of Maric while another 75 voted against him. This allowed him to keep his post since the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) did not attract the 76 votes needed to oust him. 

However, Ivan Vrdoljak, the president of the small but influential liberal-left Croatian People’s Party (HNS), said on May 4 that his party would call for a no-confidence vote against Plenkovic cabinet.

Most submitted a motion to dissolve the parliament on May 3. The SDP also supports the idea of snap elections.

The SDP has also filed no-confidence motions against three HDZ deputy speakers and Economy Minister Martina Dalic, the latter over conflict of interest in the Agrokor case.

As the situation becomes increasingly complicated, constitutional court president Miroslav Separovic commented on May 4 that the court would not get involved in the current political crisis as long as the decisions taken by the parliament are in line with the constitution, Hina reported.

The order of the motions in the parliament will determine the future of the HDZ-led government. Thus the new speaker of the parliament will have a crucial role on the order of motions and therefore also on the political future of the Adriatic country.

Having said that, the result of the vote on Maric’s future was encouraging for the HDZ. “The vote of no confidence was the first and key point for the survival of the government, because if it had been passed, the dissolution of the parliament would have been the most likely option,” Raiffeisen analysts wrote on May 5. 

“Now, the possibility of early elections declined slightly (to 40% from 50%) but still it is unclear whether the prime minister will manage to form a new cabinet.”

The HDZ needs support of at least 76 MPs to replace the former ministers from Most, who include Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic, Minister of Justice Anto Sprlje and Energy Minister Slaven Dobrovic. The party currently has 61 MPs in the 151-seat parliament, meaning Plenkovic needs the support of 15 MPs from other parties.

While the current expectation is that he will manage to form a new majority, the chances are this will be so slim as to keep the sword of Damocles hovering over his new cabinet.