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Incendiary populist has a chance to turn Croatia away from the pro-EU, pro-Ukraine path

Croatia’s maverick President Zoran Milanović, who has attracted international attention for his criticism of the EU and NATO, has emerged as an important force in Wednesday’s general election and is now ready to play a key role in the formation of the next government.

Milanović’s sudden rise in popularity, despite having been a pillar of Croatian politics for decades, was fueled by provocative remarks he made, such as denouncing the Ukrainian war song as fascist. Ukrainian Slavaor “Glory to Ukraine”, and rejecting EU influence on Croatian politics.

According to preliminary results on Wednesday evening, his party is far from having obtained an absolute majority, but it appears to have performed well enough – in second place – to have a significant voice in reshaping the political direction of Zagreb .

“He was a left-liberal politician, but is now on the verge of becoming a Balkan Trump figure, to the point where he announced he would challenge the veracity of the election results if his party did not win elections,” said Žarko Puhovski. , political analyst and public intellectual.

Milanović’s skepticism toward the EU, US and NATO is unusual for the Adriatic country, where unwavering support for Western alliances is the norm among all parties. During the last two years of the war in Ukraine, Zagreb was also seen in Brussels as a reliable support for kyiv, but this position may now depend on the influence that Milanović and his party can exert.

His rhetoric appears to have resonated with the public, who have shown record support for the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which for years has failed to excite voters and has been largely reduced to playing second fiddle to the center-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). .

Even turnout reached historic highs, with more than 50 percent of the country’s 3.7 million eligible voters casting ballots by 4:30 p.m.

According to preliminary results released by the Central Election Commission, with more than 90 percent of votes counted, the HDZ obtained 60 seats in the Croatian Sabor (parliament), while the SDP is expected to obtain 42.

Having obtained neither the absolute majority of 76 seats out of the 151 seats in parliament, the parties will have to form coalitions with right-wing or left-wing entities that have exceeded the threshold.

The campaign took place after two years of intense verbal exchanges between Milanović and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković of the HDZ. As the election approached, attention shifted away from political agendas and toward personal animosities.

Milanović’s transformation from a relatively conventional politician into a media spectacle included hurling foul language at his political opponents, even going so far as to call Plenković a “fire-breathing badger” remotely controlled by Brussels.

Opinion polls rank him as the most popular politician in a country desperate for distraction amid years of crisis, including earthquakes, economic fallout from Ukraine invasion and a pandemic-induced slowdown that has proven particularly difficult for the tourism-dependent country. .

“These elections have been marked by unprecedented divisions within the electorate, and there has never been less political content or more fighting between the main election candidates,” Puhovski said.

Local media compared Milanović’s rapid rise in popularity and possible return to the premiership to a “Slovak scenario”, drawing parallels with Robert Fico’s recent re-election in Bratislava. Both take pro-Russian positions and oppose the bloc’s unified policy towards Ukraine. Milanović served as Prime Minister from 2011 to 2016.

Plenković, on the other hand, has been applauded for his ability to move the HDZ – a party that has dominated the country’s politics for decades – away from its dominant nationalist, even far-right, narratives towards a more pro-European and centrist approach. , at least when it comes to key policy.

HDZ’s legacy is closely linked to Croatia’s war of independence during the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The party has been criticized for its association with individuals accused of war crimes and for its alignment with sympathizers of the Nazi puppet state of Croatia, dating from World War II.

“In general, right-wing parties in Croatia are considered more hysterical during elections and left-wing parties are the most rational. This time their roles have been reversed,” Puhovski continued.

Voters may be inclined to support the SDP due to accusations of widespread corruption within the HDZ government. With as many as 30 ministers having resigned over corruption during their tenure, the electorate was likely looking to make a definitive break with the previous administration’s tainted legacy.

Milanović’s antics also led to a minor constitutional crisis that arose after the election was called in March, when he declared his candidacy for prime minister under the SDP banner while refusing to resign as president .

The country’s highest court barred Milanović from officially running or being included on the ballot if he refused to resign. However, he managed to become the SDP’s unofficial candidate, casting a shadow over the campaign.

“The fundamental principles of the constitution have been violated, according to which the head of state is strictly non-partisan,” explained Puhovski, emphasizing that the role of the president is to maintain a balance between state institutions and not to ‘exploit his position to access the highest offices in the country. the country, as Milanović did.


Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe.Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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