The bourgeois Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has a good chance of remaining head of government after the parliamentary elections. As the electoral commission announced after counting 86.85 percent of the ballot papers that night, his HDZ party and its allies received 35.04 percent of the vote. This means that Plenkovic would not yet have an absolute majority, but it is possible that he could win over smaller parties and representatives of ethnic minorities to form a coalition. The previous election in 2020 had a similar outcome.

According to projections based on partial results, the left-liberal opposition alliance Rijeke Pravde (Rivers of Justice), which is close to President Zoran Milanovic and led by the social democratic SDP, came in second with 25.08 percent of the vote. The right-wing nationalist party Domovinski Pokret (Homeland Movement) took third place with 9.58 percent of the vote.

The green-liberal Mozemo (We Can) party with 8.0 percent and the conservative-right-wing populist alliance led by the Most (Bridge) party with 7.62 percent are also likely to make it into parliament again. The official final results are expected to be announced next week.

30 ministers lost due to corruption scandals

Plenkovic has ruled Croatia since 2016, and the HDZ has been in power for 26 of the 33 years since the Adriatic country’s independence. He positions himself as pro-Western and pro-European. Critics accuse him of continuing the expansion of corrupt networks in the state and administration that his predecessors began.

In the almost eight years of his leadership, Plenkovic lost 30 ministers because of corruption scandals. With the recent controversial appointment of senior public prosecutor Ivan Turudic, who is loyal to the HDZ, Plenkovic now seems to want to put an end to the fight against corruption and the previously fruitful cooperation with the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).

High voter turnout and populist rhetoric

Plenkovic’s bitter opponent, President Milanovic, created a better atmosphere in the election campaign. A month before the election, he surprisingly announced that he wanted to become prime minister at the head of an SDP-led government. He based this claim on the corruption allegations against the HDZ.

As president with limited power, he used populist rhetoric to draw closer to the extreme right in Croatia. In contrast to Plenkovic, he attracted attention with pro-Russian statements regarding the Ukraine war.

Voter turnout was now close to a record: just two and a half hours before the polls closed, it was 50.6 percent, higher than the overall turnout in the last election in 2020, which was 46.9 percent.