Nationalists claim victory in Croatia
ZAGREB: Croatia’s opposition nationalists claimed victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, although the next government is likely to be a coalition since no single party is expected to win outright.
“I can say that the HDZ is the winner in the elections,” leader of the opposition Croatian Democratic Union Ivo Sanader told national television.
Mr Sanader claimed victory an hour before the first partial results were expected to be published at 9:30pm (2030 GMT).
Opinion polls before the elections indicated it would be a close race between the HDZ and the incumbent centre-left alliance led by the Social Democrats (SDP) of Prime Minister Ivica Racan.
Croatia’s outgoing leader Racan whose SDP faced a tough challenge from opposition nationalists said the coalition government would not be stable without his party.
“I don’t believe that a stable coalition government would be possible without the SDP,” Mr Racan told national television 90 minutes after polling booths closed.
“We are aware that we will have a good electoral result,” he added.
The opposition HDZ has already claimed victory in the elections, although no single party is expected to win enough votes to command a majority in the new parliament.
The centre-left governing coalition crushed the HDZ in 2000, pledging to transform the country into a genuine European democracy after the war, autocracy and isolation of the 1990s.
The moderates’ triumph was a milestone for Croatia and put the former Yugoslav republic on a fast-track to EU membership. Croatia applied to join the club in February and hopes to be accepted in 2007.
Mr Racan’’ team has been credited with salvaging democracy from Tudjman’’ autocratic regime in the 1990s, reviving the economy from the ravages of the 1991-95 Serbo-Croat war, and ending Croatia’s international isolation.
But it has also been accused of failing to reduce unemployment, which stands at some 18 percent, and punish corrupt officials from the Tudjman era.
“The voters reproach the HDZ for what they have done and the centre-left coalition for what they have not done while in power,” Ivan Siber, a political analyst, said.
Stung by its election debacle in 2000, the HDZ has been trying to reinvent itself as a more centralist party in the mainstream of European conservatism.
But HDZ head Ivo Sanader has been reluctant to directly denounce the party’s mistakes in the 1990s and many Croatians, as well as leaders of the significant Serb minority, are sceptical over the party’s new image.
“People simply forgot how it was under the HDZ,” Bozena Tihic, a professor, said. SDP supporter Nenad Zecevic, a lawyer, said that although he was disappointed with some aspects of the government’s record, he could not support the ‘corrupt’ nationalists. —AFP