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Books on Croatia
Update No: 127 - (21/12/07)
New Croatian government
Ivo Sanader, Croatia's centre-right prime minister, says he will accept the
mandate to form the government for the next four years, the critical phase when
the country of 4.5m hopes to achieve accession to the European Union. It is the
one non-EU country that has a realistic chance of that goal soon.
The president, Stjepan Mesic, authorised Mr Sanader on December 15 to form a new
governing coalition based on the final count from closely contested November 25
parliamentary elections. The prime minister - whose centre-right Croatian
Democratic Union (HDZ) edged ahead of its main rival, the centre-left Social
Democratic Party (SDP) - has promised to muster a stable majority in the
"He assured me he has the support of 77 elected parliamentary
deputies," Mr Mesic said. The HDZ holds 66 seats - 10 more than the SDP,
yet still 11 short of a majority. Mr Sanader appears close to forming a cabinet
with the third-place Liberal-Peasant list and could also, as he did before,
bring aboard parties for ethnic minorities, including Serbs
But problems behind and ahead
But he could find himself politically weaker than in the past four years, when
he ruled through a minority coalition in which the HDZ retained all cabinet
Mr Sanader steered his party away from its hard-line nationalist origins under
Franjo Tudjman, the autocratic president who led Croatia to independence from
the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and decisively defeated the ethnic Serb rebels who
seized around a third of the new state's territory.
Support from ethnic Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina, who voted in a diaspora
electoral unit, boosted the HDZ's narrow lead in Croatia.
While Mr Sanader will remain prime minister, the elections show Croatia's
maturity as a democracy with smooth rotation of power. The SDP - the descendant
of the communist party that ruled exclusively until 1990 - this time achieved
its best result yet in multi-party elections, suggesting continued
"bipolarity" in future contests, said Davor Butkovic, political
columnist for the Zagreb daily, Jutarnji List.
Zoran Milanovic, who won the centre-left party's leadership six months ago, said
he would respect the constitution and President Mesic's decision. The president
could still transfer the mandate to Mr Milanovic if Mr Sanader fails to form a
government within 30 days.
The new SDP leader said he could form a wider centre-left coalition, although he
has faced renewed dissent within his own party after naming himself as the
prospective prime minister, setting aside the consensus candidate he had
nominated during the election campaign, Ljubo Jurcic.