Croatians joined the rest of Europe and went to vote in the European elections this past Sunday. Media reporting focused specifically on the bigger voter turnout compared to five years ago. Although turnout went up 4.62% to 29.85%, the increase is not comparable to the national Parliament elections for which more than half of Croatians went to cast their vote.
Besides better turnout, the results are even more surprising. In our previous blog post about the EU elections from a Croatian perspective, we had predicted a superior victory for the ruling party in Croatia – HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union). However, Croatian votes were almost equally divided between HDZ and the strongest opposition party SDP (Social Democratic Party). Four other parties secured one seat each amounting to a total of 11 MEPs to be sent to the European Parliament in the coming weeks. Following the UK’s exit from the EU in October, Croatia would be granted another spot in the European Parliament.
The biggest winner is the SDP and Mislav Kolakusic. The SDP was able to beat predictions that it would only win 3 seats despite an ongoing internal power crisis, which had led to decreasing popularity. The win is likely to appease party leader Davor Bernardic who can rest safely on this big win. In parallel, Mislav Kolakusic, a former Commercial Court judge running as an independent, pushed an anti-corruption agenda which was able to draw voters from other parties like Human shield to him. His emergence onto the political scene suggests he may have bigger plans for the upcoming Presidential and Parliament elections in Croatia.
It’s hard to say what is a bigger disaster, HDZ losing one seat to their arch-nemesis and biggest opposition SDP or MOST (Bridge of the Independent Lists) dropping out of the race completely. They are, however, not the only ones who went home empty-handed, Milan Bandic’s 365 Labour and Solidarity Party and ultra-right conservatists Bruna Esih and Zlatko Glasnovic were unable to secure a seat in the European Parliament. The demise of HDZ may be a little overblown, but it’s a clear message to party leader and current Prime-Minister Andrej Plenkovic that the party may need to reform to stay attractive in future elections.
Croatia will send a balanced set of politicians to the European Parliament, representing the center-left and center-right of the political spectrum, giving hope that the surge of far-right populism has been stopped in Croatia, at least for now. Only one Eurosceptic Parliamentarian will join the new European Parliament.
Here are Croatia’s future MEPs:
Karlo Ressler (HDZ)
Dubravka Suica (HDZ) – returning MEP
Tomislav Sokol (HDZ)
Zeljana Zovko (HDZ) – returning MEP
Tonino Picula (SDP) – returning MEP
Biljana Borzan (SDP) – returning MEP
Predrag Fred Matic (SDP)
Romana Jerkovic (SDP)
Ruza Tomasic (HRAST) – returning MEP
Mislav Kolakusic (Independent slate)
Ivan Vilibor Sincic (Human Shield)
Valter Flego (Amsterdam coalition)