Negotiations on new Croatian government drag on

Negotiations on new Croatian government drag on
By Carmen Simion January 8, 2016

Two months after Croatia’s general elections, members of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and Bridge of Independent Lists (Most) are still discussing how to share out positions in their new government.

Croatia’s lengthy political deadlock ended on December 23, when the Croatian Patriotic Coalition, led by the HDZ, and Most agreed to propose businessman Tihomir Oreskovic as prime minister designate. Negotiations between the Patriotic Coalition, Most and the rival Croatia is Growing coalition led by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) had dragged on for more than six weeks after the November elections ended inconclusively.

In addition to selecting the prime minister designate, Most and the Patriotic Coalition have also agreed that their respective leaders, Božo Petrov and Tomislav Karamarko, should be vice presidents in the new government.

The two parties have also agreed to reduce the number of ministries. HDZ has proposed abolishing three of Croatia’s current 20 ministries, and creating one new one - the ministry of demographic policy.

"We agree that some ministries and agencies have to be rationalised,” Petrov said after negotiations with the HDZ.

However, discussions on who should hold key government posts are still ongoing. The two party leaders told reporters after talks with Oreskovic on January 6 that the government would be formed and start working with the current 20 ministries and changes would be made only after further analysis, according to Hina news agency. The ministers’ names should be announced next week.

Most has expressed its willingness to accept candidates regardless of their political affiliation as long as they are ready to carry out reforms.

"We still have not decided whether we are going to give the opportunity to independent experts. That would show that we have never fought for posts in government for us personally," Petrov has said, according to Total Croatia News.

Most has already said that it wants the interior ministry, which according to party spokesman Nikola Grmoja is essential to make the fight against crime and corruption more effective. Most is also expected to seek control of the public administration, justice, environment, agriculture, and entrepreneurship ministries.

“We will insist on those ministries for which we can offer experts. It is important to finish these negotiations in a polite manner so I would leave that part open. We said for which departments we believe we can offer experts. We know that the Ministry of Internal Affairs is very important to us as well as the Ministry of Justice. We want to tackle to largest problems of the Croatian society. We believe the other side will support us on our quest,” Petrov said on January 4.

Meanwhile, Grmoja has accused Croatia’s current interior minister Ranko Ostojic of abuse of power, claiming that the police kept Petrov under surveillance following the elections.

"I said what I know about everything, that 10 days ago I received information that the Parliamentary Committee for Internal Affairs and National Security had received a submission which states that Minister Ostojic was following Bozo Petrov, his contacts via a mobile phone, in order to see what political decision he would make since he was the most important political player after the election,” the Most spokesman told the Office for Combating Corruption and Organized Crime on January 5. Ostojic has rejected the accusations.