Polling stations opened at 7am for just under 3.8 million voters who have an opportunity to cast votes for parliament for the second time in Croatia in ten months.
Voters in Croatia and abroad – diaspora and Bosnian Croats – can choose from among 177 lists of parties, coalitions and individual candidates for 12 constituencies.
Besides 140 seats in ten constituencies in Croatia, eight seats are guaranteed to national minorities and three to Bosnian Croats and the diaspora, making 151 in total.
After the last centre-right government fell in June, after only five months in power, voters are choosing among options similar to those on offer in the last elections in November 2015.
The last government was led by the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, in coalition with a newcomer to national politics, the centre-right Bridge of the Independent lists, MOST, and a number of smaller parties. The Prime Minister was Tihomir Oreskovic, a non-party candidate with experience in financial management in the pharmaceutical industry.
After a six-year recession, economic results started to improve in 2015, during the last year of the previous centre-left coalition government, led by the Social Democratic Party, SDP, under Zoran Milanovic.
The last government, meanwhile, encountered problems in naming officials, disagreed on which reforms to implement and failed to draft and pass many laws in parliament.
Additionally, it was widely criticized for its relation to Croatia's recent history – personified in the controversial culture minister, Zlatko Hasanbegovic. It was also criticised in relation to media freedoms.
In contrast to last year’s broad centre-right coalition, the HDZ is running alone in these elections, with only a few candidates from other smaller parties from the centre, but also from the far-right. The HDZ has also changed its president since July and is now led by former diplomat Andrej Plenkovic.
The SDP is running again in the elections as part of a centre-left People’s Coalition and is tipped to win the most seats.
MOST and some other parties, like the anti-establishment Living Wall and the coalition gathered around Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic, will likely decide who forms the new government, however, since neither of the two major blocs is predicted to win 76 seats. Croatia has not had a minority government in 25 years of parliamentary history.
A survey published on Wednesday, conducted by a polling agency Ipsos puls, using secret voting by 4,200 people in all ten 14-seat constituencies, predicts that the People's Coalition will win 55 seats and the HDZ 53.
The same survey suggests that MOST will win 12 seats, Living Wall, eight and Bandic’s coalition, seven. Three smaller parties will win between one and three seats each.
An earlier survey published on September 2 showed the People’s Coalition could win 61 seats and the HDZ 56. That survey, conducted through telephone calls, was carried out by the polling agency Hendal and included 10,000 participants.
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