The first EU Elections in which Croatia, the newest EU member, understands its full potential

The first EU Elections in which Croatia, the newest EU member, understands its full potential

Bojan Jovanović May 2019

These elections have sparked major interest among political opinion-formers, parties and politicians alike, as there are around 100 more candidates than the previous elections, which makes the choice for Croatians more complex. The truth is that no matter the choice, people will always vote for the same parties with one or two exceptions. Which brings us to…

Croatian Democratic Union vs the rest

The current government is constituted by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) with help from the Croatian People’s Party – Liberal Democrats (HNS). The HDZ, which has held power for seven out of nine possible terms in Croatia’s democratic history, is looking as strong as ever. According to the most recent opinion polls, it seems it will stay that way, as the main opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) will again take second place. 

It’s interesting to see that five years ago almost every party used coalitions to enter the European Parliament. The novelty of this election is that every major party is running alone, which signals maturity and a certain self-confidence.

In addition to the leading players there are other options available, such as Human Shield – a party which wants Croatia to leave the EU, MOST – liberal conservatists who were in government with HDZ three years ago, and the Amsterdam coalition – a mix of many prominent Croatian politicians.

Do any of them stand a chance of winning?

Latest opinion polls

One of the differences from the last EU election is that Croatia now has 12 seats in the European Parliament, one more than before.

Latest polls predict the following:

36.1% votes to HDZ

20.5% SDP

9.7% Human shield

7.4% MOST

6% to the Amsterdam coalition

…all of which translates to six MEPs to HDZ, three to SDP, and one each to the rest.

Compared to the Promocija plus CRO Demoskop report from February, this latest poll shows Human Shield losing one MEP to the Amsterdam coalition, whilst everything else has stayed the same.

Third time’s the charm

This will be the 3rd European Parliament election in Croatia in the last six years. The last EU elections in 2014 didn’t spark people’s interest as the turnout was only 25.14%, which ranked Croatia 24th out of 28 countries in Europe.

The first EU elections in Croatia were held in 2013, just before the country became part of the EU. Low turnout may have been caused by two more elections in that period –  the local government elections in 2013, followed by the presidential elections in 2014.

According to some polls, this year the turnout is expected to be around 30%, with all candidates predicting a better turnout than last time.

It is safe to say that Croatians have a general disinterest for the European Parliament and don’t understand that the changes happening there are later directly incorporated into Croatian legislation or affect them personally (e.g., mobile roaming changes). It seems to Croatians that it’s all happening somewhere far, far away.

Influencers to the rescue – campaign

Five years ago, young adults avoided the polling stations, as only 13% committed to voting. This time it may be different, as the European Parliament has campaigned strongly thanks to, which in Croatia currently has 25,000 registered activists. Many prominent people are promoting the campaign, from rap-star Stoka to Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic. It can’t get bigger than Pamela Anderson voicing her support via Twitter to a new political platform We can (Mozemo), it seems everything is going well for these elections. A group of influencers has also joined the campaign and started promoting it in a natural and unbiased way (which is something of a rarity). This refreshing approach may lead to better results than standard campaigning, but will it be enough to convince young people to vote?


All is fair in politics and war

It’s interesting to see how some organisations and individuals are exploiting the election campaign for their own ends.

Whether it concerns a giant laptop sticker displayed in the Croatian Parliament promoting an MP as a candidate, using the timing to organise a public campaign for a referendum on pension reform (organised by the three biggest trade unions) to attract sympathy from the general public and maximise media coverage, or aligning yourself with other campaigns which promote conservative views.

It’s even better when that campaign starts a day before the elections, so you can take advantage of the media blackout. Such timing allows you to promote your own candidate while presenting some government projects. You name it – we have it all in Croatia!