Croatian citizens have started casting ballots in an early parliamentary election that is unlikely to produce a clear winner and could pave the way for more political uncertainty in the European Union’s newest member state.
The second vote in less than a year was called when a previous, right-wing government collapsed after just six months in power, paralyzed by bickering within the ruling coalition.
Political deadlock has delayed reforms that are necessary for Croatia to catch up with the rest of the EU. It has also fueled nationalist rhetoric amid heightened tensions with Serbia _ its former Balkan war foe.
Opinion polls suggest that neither the conservative Croatian Democratic Union, known as HDZ, nor the left-leaning Social Democrats and their People’s Coalition, will win enough votes to rule alone.
This means that that some of the smaller groups could play the role of kingmakers, as was the case with the Most group in the previous government. Some analysts have predicted that Croatia’s next government could be as unstable as the previous one.
Although more advanced than other Balkan countries, Croatia has one of the weakest economies in the EU following years of crisis after the split from the former Yugoslavia and the 1991-95 war.
After a six-year recession, Croatia has shown signs of recovery with reported growth of more than 2 percent. However, unemployment hovers around 14 percent _ among the highest in the EU _ and much of the fiscal growth is attributed to tourism along Croatia’s Adriatic coast.