Croatia votes for new govt

6 July, 2020 12:00 AM printer

ZAGREB: Croatia went to the polls Sunday to elect a government to navigate the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout, in a tight race pitting ruling conservatives against leftist rivals and a new nationalist party on the rise, reports AFP.

The pandemic and its economic effects have weighed heavily on the campaign and the minds of voters, with the Adriatic country’s tourism-dependent economy on course for its steepest decline in decades.

“Whoever wins will face major economic problems to deal with in autumn. It won’t be easy,” said Igor Ivic, a 49-year-old economist among the first crowd to cast ballots in Zagreb.

The ruling conservative HDZ party, which has led Croatia for most of its nearly 30 year independence, is trying to capitalise on its relatively successful containment of the country’s own virus outbreak thus far, with an official tally of roughly 110 deaths and 3,000 infections.

But an uptick of cases in recent weeks, with dozens recorded daily, has renewed fears over the health situation and given the opposition fresh ammunition.

The main opposition party, the left-leaning Social Democrats (SDP), accuses government of endangering citizens by “rushing” to hold the elections early, instead of their initial plans for autumn.

As he cast his own ballot in the capital, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic defended the move, saying the “sooner the better” for safety reasons.

“All recommendations of all experts were that it (virus) can be more dangerous in autumn than it is now, that is why the elections are today,” the 50-year-old told reporters.

In power since 2016 with a slim majority, Plenkovic’s HDZ is polling neck-and-neck with the Social Democrat-led coalition.