Opposition expected to win Croatian elections

Opposition expected to win Croatian elections

ZAGREB / LJUBLJANA - The Associated Press
Opposition expected to win Croatian elections

AFP photo

Croatians voted yesterday in a parliamentary election expected to unseat long-dominant conservatives and empower a center-left coalition just as the country prepares to join the European Union.

The winner also will inherit a nation where social discontent is rising due to declining living standards and high unemployment struggles that come amid the backdrop of a broader European economic crisis.

The vote for Croatia’s 151-seat parliament pits the governing center-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) against a coalition of left-leaning parties. The latest surveys show a four-party opposition coalition known as Kukuriku, led by 45-year-old former diplomat Zoran Milanovic of the Social Democrats, is poised to win an outright majority.

Croatia is to sign an accession treaty with the EU on Dec. 9. The country of 4.3 million is on track to join the EU in July 2013 as the bloc’s 28th member. The conservatives have ruled Croatia since its 1990s war for independence from the former Yugoslavia, except for the 2001-2003 period, when the center-left coalition took over.

Slovenia voted too

Slovenians also voted in an early election expected to bring conservatives back to power, where they will have to tackle the country’s mounting debt, unemployment and a looming recession.

Yesterday’s parliamentary vote is the Alpine nation’s first snap election since gaining independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. It was called in September after the center-left government was toppled due to economic uncertainty and allegations of corruption. Opinion polls have predicted that the Slovenian Democratic Party of former Prime Minister Janez Jansa will win the most support in the country of 2 million.