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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Croatia's 2007 parliamentary election

By Manuel Alvarez-Rivera, Puerto Rico

Croatia, the second largest of the former Yugoslav republics, holds a parliamentary election on Sunday, November 25, 2007.

The State Election Commission has live election results in Serbo-Croatian (Croatian). A preliminary distribution of parliamentary seats appears at the bottom of this posting, under Update.

The boomerang-shaped country's unicameral legislature is composed of up to 160 members, of which 140 are chosen in ten multi-member constituencies. Croatian nationals residing abroad are also represented in Parliament, but the number of seats set aside for them is determined according to the proportion of votes cast by expatriates relative to the total number of votes cast in the ten territorial constituencies. Finally, eight seats are reserved for Croatia's national minorities, with the Serbs entitled to three seats and the remaining groups to five.

Multi-member constituency seats are apportioned by the D'Hondt or largest average method of proportional representation, while national minority seats are filled by majority voting. The electoral law establishes a five percent constituency-level threshold for the proportional distribution of seats, but in practice the official barrier is rendered irrelevant by the fact that each territorial constituency has 14 seats, and the application of the D'Hondt rule in these establishes a higher de facto threshold of up to 6.7%.

Like neighboring Slovenia, Croatia held its multi-party elections in 1990 and declared its independence the following year, after the proposal was overwhelmingly endorsed by Croatian voters in a referendum. However, Croatia's large ethnic Serbian minority, which constituted about one-eight of the country's population, was staunchly opposed to independence, and rebel Serb groups, morally and materially supported by the rump Yugoslav state, seized control of about one-third of the country during Croatia's brief war of independence with the Yugoslav People's Army. Although Croatia attained international recognition by 1992, the country had to deal with a large number of refugees from both Croatian areas under Serb control as well as from Bosnia-Hercegovina, where a full-scale civil war was raging. Nonetheless, Croatia recovered most of the Serb-controlled areas in a 1995 military operation, and following the Dayton peace agreement, which brought peace to Bosnia-Hercegovina, the country peacefully regained control of the remaining areas. However, the Serbian minority dwindled to less than five percent of the population.

Save for a brief interval between 2000 and 2003, Croatia has been ruled since 1990 by the right-wing, nationalist Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), and the party's founding leader, Dr. Franjo Tudjman, became the country's first post-independence president, holding office until his death in 1999. Although Tujdman's rule was somewhat authoritarian, the HDZ government of Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, in power since 2003, has pursued a more moderate course and sought to improve cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which indicted for war crimes several individuals regarded by many in Croatia as national heroes. Since 2004, Croatia has been officially a candidate for membership in the European Union. However, Croatia's GNP per capita, while much higher than that of any former Yugoslav republic other than Slovenia, remains well below the EU average. More importantly, widespread corruption remains a major obstacle to EU membership.

Recent polls suggest a close race between HDZ and the main opposition party, the left-of-center Social Democratic Party (SDP); neither appears likely to gain an outright parliamentary majority, and several minor parties trailing well behind could hold the balance of power after the election.


Preliminary figures from Croatia's ten territorial constituencies have the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) narrowly ahead of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP). According to election results published by Croatia's State Election Commission, HDZ would have 61 seats to 56 for the SDP, while a four-party alliance headed by the Croatian Peasants Party (HSS) and the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) would obtain eight seats, and the Croatian People's Party - Liberal Democrats (HNS) would receive seven; four smaller parties would secure the remaining eight seats. In addition, results for the Croatian diaspora indicate HDZ would capture five additional seats, for a total of 66 seats.

Voter turnout in the territorial constituencies stood at 63.5%.

Voting will be repeated on December 9 in five polling stations that reported more ballots than registered voters, so final results won't be known before that date. Meanwhile, following a first round of consultations over the formation of a new government, Croatian President Stipe Mesic declared that neither Prime Minister Ivo Sanader (HDZ) nor SDP leader Zoran Milanovic have the required parliamentary majority, contradicting assertions by both party leaders.