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Ruling conservatives win Croatia election - but there's a catch

Croatia's incumbent prime minister, Andrej Plenković.
Croatia's incumbent prime minister, Andrej Plenković. Copyright Darko Vojinovic/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Darko Vojinovic/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
Published on Updated
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The Croatian Democratic Union won parliamentary elections on Wednesday, however they will need support from the far right to stay in power.

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Croatia's governing conservatives won a sharply competitive election on Wednesday, according to the official vote count. 

The ruling right-wing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) defeated a centrist left-wing alliance informally led by populist President Zoran Milanovic and his Social Democratic Party (SDP). 

However, despite their convincing win, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic's HDZ will need the support of far-right groups to stay in power. 

The election followed a campaign centred on a bitter rivalry between the country's president and prime minister.

With more than 90% of the ballots counted, the state electoral commission said the HDZ won 60 seats in the 151-seat parliament. The SDP got 42 seats. 

The far-right Statehood Movement was third, with 14 seats, making it a kingmaker in future talks for the next government.

“Starting tomorrow morning, we will start forming a new parliamentary majority in order to form our third government," Plenkovic said in his victory speech. “I want to congratulate the other parties that were defeated by the HDZ.”

Turnout was more than 50% - a record - hours before the polls closed.

The election was held as Croatia, a European Union and NATO member, struggles with the highest inflation rate in the eurozone, a labour shortage, illegal migration and reports of widespread corruption.

At stake in the race was also the EU’s unity as it grapples with the instability from Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

President Zoran Milanovic of the left-wing SDP - which lost the vote - opposes more aid for Ukraine, which had sparked fears Croatia could align itself with more Moscow-friendly EU members such as Hungary and Slovakia.

However, the HDZ win means the country is likely to continue on its pro-Western course.

The HDZ has largely held office since Croatia gained independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. 

The Balkan nation became the newest member of the European Union in 2013, and joined Europe’s passport-free travel area and the eurozone last year.

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