Leading candidates cast their ballots in Zagreb, as Croatia’s parliamentary election gets under way

(17 Apr 2024)

Zagreb – 17 April 2024
1. Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenkovic, waiting at polling station to cast ballot
2. Plenkovic casting ballot
3. SOUNDBITE (Croatian) Andrej Plenkovic, Prime Minister of Croatia and leader of conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party:
"I expect a large number of citizens to use their democratic right and vote for the kind of Croatia in which the constitution is respected, and so that Croatia remains firmly integrated into the Western world, within NATO and the EU. That it keeps developing and building, that it remains resilient and strong, economically, and socially conscious. And that we continue solving all the priorities of the Croatian people in the next four years ahead.”
4. President of Croatia Zoran Milanovic, with wife Sanja, at polling station
5. Various of Milanovic casting ballot
6. Milanovic talking to reporters outside polling station
7. SOUNDBITE (Croatian) Zoran Milanovic, President of Croatia and informal candidate of leftist alliance:
"They (HDZ) will get a lot of votes, but I’m certain that free Croatia will win more than them, and (that we in the opposition) will have to overcome our differences, so that we try and save this country – and it can be saved, and it’s worth saving and fighting for, to protect it from bullies like those (in power).”
8. Milanovic walking away
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and President Zoran Milanovic, the two main figures in the country’s crucial parliamentary election, cast their ballots on Wednesday in Zagreb.

The vote comes after a short and acrimonious campaign which pitted Plenkovic, leader of the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) against an alliance of centrist and left-wing parties informally led by populist President Zoran Milanovic and his Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Plenkovic, in power since 2016, is seeking a third consecutive term, and campaigned on a platform emphasizing GDP growth and his government’s recent successes which include joining the EU’s passport-free travel area and the eurozone in early 2023.

The election is being held as Croatia, a European Union and NATO member, struggles with the highest inflation rate in the eurozone, a labor shortage, illegal migration and reports of widespread corruption.

At stake in the race for Croatia’s 151-seat parliament isn’t just the Adriatic Sea country’s future domestic policies, but also the EU’s unity as it grapples with the instability from Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

If the HDZ stays in power, the country would continue on a pro-Western course in supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

A success for SDP could put it on track for victory in the European Parliament elections in June.

It would shake the HDZ’s long dominance of politics and potentially open space for stronger pro-Russian influence in the country, akin to Hungary and Slovakia.

Polls close Wednesday evening and official results are expected Thursday.

Recent polls project that Plenkovic’s HDZ might win the majority, but short of being able to govern alone.

Both blocs are expected to rely on forming coalitions with smaller right-wing parties in their quest to govern the small 3.9 million nation.

AP video by Sasa Kavic and Philpp Jenne


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