Croatia’s ruling party scored a surprise victory in Sunday’s general election, defying predictions for a tight race and putting it within touching distance of a majority in parliament.
With almost all votes counted, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s center-right Croatian Democratic Union, known as HDZ, had 66 of the legislature’s 151 seats, compared with 41 for the Social Democrat-led Restart alliance in second place.
The vote, held against a backdrop of rising COVID-19 infections, comes at a key juncture for the EU’s newest member state and its 4.2 million people. The new government must finalize this year’s entry into ERM-2 — the waiting room for euro adoption — while lifting an economy that relies on tourism for a fifth of output from its worst slump on record amid the coronavirus pandemic.
With support from the eight seats allocated to minority groups, as well as other small parties and individual lawmakers, HDZ can quickly get the 10 or more seats it needs for a majority, said Kresimir Macan, who heads the Manjgura political consultancy.
Plenkovic, prime minister since 2016, “will easily form a government,” Macan said by phone from Zagreb. “He can continue to work quickly on fighting the pandemic and saving the tourist season, and continue with the planned administrative reform. In the current situation, this is a good result for Croatia.”
Plenkovic had at one stage looked a good bet for outright victory after weathering the initial phase of the pandemic and ending lockdowns promptly in a bid to salvage the crucial summer season.
However, visitors have not flocked back to historic Dubrovnik or the nation’s hundreds of Adriatic Sea islands.
Plenkovic was also criticized for refusing to self-isolate following an encounter with tennis star Novak Djokovic, who tested positive for the virus, but is now free of it.
He thanked voters for what he called a “compelling victory.”
Croatia needs “solutions for the economy and public-health challenges,” he told supporters in Zagreb. “It needs to strengthen institutions, as well as human and minority rights.”
Without the need to team up with right-wing parties, Plenkovic now has the opportunity to bring HDZ closer to the political center, Macan said.
In related news, the EU’s executive arm expressed regret after its top official threw her support behind the HDZ before Sunday’s vote.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen appeared with other center-right politicians in a promotional video clip posted by the HDZ, in breach of political neutrality guidelines for commission officials.
A former defense minister in Germany, Von der Leyen is a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union and belongs to the same European People’s Party as HDZ.
The code of conduct for members of the European Commission states that they “shall abstain from making public statements or interventions on behalf of any political party or organization of the social partners of which they are members,” except when they stand for election or participate in a vote.
Reacting to the avalanche of criticism on social media, European Commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer said that Von der Leyen joined the Croatian campaign in “her personal capacity.”
“Regrettably, this was not made clear in the final version of the video,” Mamer said on Sunday.
Von der Leyen was identified as the European Commission president in the video and was filmed standing in front of a European flag.
A CAUTIONARY TALE: Bookseller Lam Wing-kee speaks of the danger that his adopted home Taiwan now faces and the ordeal of his detention in China Lam Wing-kee (林榮基) leaned forward in his chair, answering quickly and sharply to issue a warning to the people of his new home, Taiwan. “Be ready now,” Lam said. “We should be more alert as citizens, we should get ready,” the 64-year-old Hong Konger said. “If they can take Hong Kong back, the next place, I feel, is Taiwan.” Late in Taipei at Causeway Bay Books Mark II, on the 10th floor of a nondescript building, Lam, a wiry, gray-haired bookseller, was sitting at his desk with a bemused gaze behind thin oval glasses. The desk was neat, but crowded with books and a
The genteel world of New Zealand pottery has been rocked by a row over plans for a ceramic dildo-making workshop, sparking allegations of bullying and online abuse. Ceramicist Nicole Gaston said that she wanted the Wellington Potters’ Association to hold the event with Iza Lozano, a visiting Mexican artist who has conducted similar workshops in her homeland. Gaston said that pottery dildos are easily sterilized, can be warmed and, unlike latex versions, do not pose the risk of leeching chemicals into the body. “Some of the oldest ceramic works ever found are of phalluses,” she said. “This isn’t exactly brand new. People have
‘POLICE EVERYWHERE’: A law that would criminalize the publication of images of police officers was passed by the National Assembly and awaits Senate approval Violent clashes erupted in Paris on Saturday as tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against new security legislation, with tensions intensified by the police beating and racial abuse of a black man that shocked France. Several fires were started in Paris, sending acrid smoke into the air, as protesters vented their anger against the security law, which would restrict the publication of police officers’ faces. About 46,000 people marched in Paris and 133,000 in total nationwide, the French Ministry of the Interior said. Protest organizers said about 500,000 joined nationwide, including 200,000 in the capital. French President Emmanuel Macron late
ILL-EQUIPPED: Pamekasan — a modest district by the Java Sea, where Sardjono Utomo worked for years as a hospital director — did not even have one ventilator Sardjono Utomo, a senior Indonesian physician, late on Tuesday afternoon admitted himself to his local hospital in East Java. In just over 24 hours, as his fellow doctors phoned hospital after hospital in search of a ventilator in Surabaya — Indonesia’s second-largest city and a few hours’ drive away — the doctor and his wife, Sri Martini, would both be dead. The death of Sardjono and his wife from COVID-19 has raised alarm bells in the world’s fourth-most populated nation, where the pandemic has steadily gone from bad to worse and is putting a significant strain on the country’s poorly equipped healthcare