Croatia holds parliamentary elections amid COVID-19 resurgence
Croatian voters started casting their ballots in parliamentary elections at 7 a.m. local time (GMT+4) on Sundayç, Trend reports citing Xinhua.
The elections are seen as the most challenging in the country's history as the number of new COVID-19 cases hit a record high this week after the easing of lockdown measures and reopening of borders. Voters are advised to attend poll stations with masks and bring their own pencils.
Over 3.8 million eligible voters will elect 151 members of parliament (MPs) by secret ballot to four-year terms. According to the latest polls, there is no clear winner in sight as none of the parties are expected to gain an absolute majority of 76 seats, which means that coalition talks will be required after the elections.
The central-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), led by incumbent Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, initiated a parliament dissolution in May, believing it can get another four-year term to run the country. Its main challenger is the center-left political alliance Restart Coalition, led by the Social Democratic Party (SDP). According to both party leaders, a grand coalition between the HDZ and the SDP is not an option.
The third-strongest party is the recently-formed Homeland Movement, a right-wing party led by singer Miroslav Skoro, who almost made it to the runoff of the presidential election in January.
The Bridge party, a kingmaker after the last elections in 2016, is expected to take several seats in parliament, as well as the Green-Left Coalition, which is particularly popular in the capital Zagreb.
The latest survey by polling agency Promocija plus predicted that the Restart Coalition will win 56 seats, the HDZ 55, and the Homeland Movement 18.
Croatian political parties and others have submitted 192 lists with 2,669 candidates in total. They are running in 10 constituencies, with 14 MPs elected in each of it, while the diaspora elects three and ethnic minorities eight.
This is the 10th parliamentary elections since the former Yugoslav Republic held its first multi-party elections in 1990. There are 6,999 polling stations in the country and around the world where Croatian citizens can cast their ballots.
The polls will close at 7 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) and the first unofficial results will be announced at 9 p.m. local time