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10/12/2016

New Croatian premier faces tough no-confidence motion

Elections

New Croatian premier faces tough no-confidence motion

Tihomir Orešković [European Council]

Croatia’s conservative HDZ party, the biggest in the ruling centre-right coalition, said today (7 June) it would file a no-confidence motion against technocrat Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković.

HDZ helped install Orešković less than five months ago, but has since fallen out with him in dispute over an alleged conflict of interest related to his wife’s business.

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Croatia’s parliament late Friday (22 January) approved a new centre-right government led by a political novice, who warned that “difficult decisions” lie ahead as the EU’s newest member struggles with meagre economic growth and an influx of refugees.

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“This government is not functional. We can pursue reforms only with new people. There is still time for new, homogenous and reshuffled government,” said Tomislav Karamarko, who is deputy prime minister and head of the HDZ party.

The HDZ is expected to file the motion later on Tuesday or on Wednesday and the vote should take place late next week.

The move follows Orešković’s demand from last week for Karamarko to step down due to a political row with coalition partner, the small reformist party Most (Bridge).

Most wants Karamarko to leave the government because of an alleged conflict of interest due to his wife’s business ties with a lobbyist for Hungary’s energy group MOL with which the Zagreb government is in dispute over management rights and investment strategy in Croatia’s energy firm INA.

Graft case shakes up Croatian government

Croatia’s main opposition party, the Social Democrats, sought on Wednesday (18 May) a confidence vote against powerful Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko over an alleged conflict of interest, as a national watchdog opened a probe into the affair.

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“If prime minister wants his deputies, who took him to power, to step down, something is wrong,” Karamarko said.

Prime Minister Orešković dismissed HDZ’s call. “Karamarko is a huge burden for the government, and the HDZ and I hope the HDZ will make right decisions,” he told reporters.

At Most’s insistence on a technocrat prime minister, the HDZ brought Orešković in as a financial expert to help get the newest European Union member out of the economic crisis.

The government in the meantime adopted a program of reforms aimed at boosting the investment climate and growth, and cutting public debt that is at 87% of gross domestic product.

The main opposition party, the Social Democrats (SDP), said they would support the motion against Orešković and wanted a snap election.

“The election is a last solution as it would mean losing time, although I’m optimist even in the case of new election,” Karamarko said.

Many analysts believe Karamarko’s intention to form a new parliamentary majority is likely to fail.

“It would be rational solution for the HDZ and for the state if Karamarko stepped down. In case of snap election, the voters would probably punish the HDZ and the SDP is likely to be a relative winner,” political analyst Davor Gjenero said.

But he said the composition of a newly elected parliament was also unlikely to guarantee a stable government.

A new prime minister-designate would have to prove support from at least 76 deputies in the 151-seat parliament and would get 30 days to form a cabinet. In case of failure, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic would have to call snap election.

“The fiscal deficit for this year is not at great risk, but serious structural reforms to ease the burden of public debt will require a stable governing coalition,” said Maximilien Lambertson from the Economist Intelligence Unit.