HDZ, the winning party in the Croatian elections, is likely to form the new government

The center-right Croatian Democratic Movement (HDZ), who is believed to have managed the COVID-19 crisis well, has won the parliamentary elections in Croatia on July 5th, 2020, securing 66 out of 151 seats. This outcome proved somewhat unexpected as the recent polls projected almost equal support of HDZ and the Restart coalition, led by its long-standing rival, the central-left Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP), which received only 41 seats – one of the worst results since the 1990s. The right-wing Homeland Movement (DPMS) comes third in the elections with 16 parliamentary seats.

We consider the following constraints in coalition formation. In 2017, the center-right Bridge of Independent Lists (Most) left the governing coalition with HDZ, as some of the HDZ members were accused of tempering financial statements of Agrokor, a major Croatian agribusiness conglomerate, which went insolvent and filed for state support. The cooperation between these two parties is, therefore, excluded in our analysis.

A joint coalition between DPMS and HDZ is not excluded, as DPMS remains the only opportunity for HDZ to form a right-wing government. The cooperation may not be established easily, though, as DPMS allows anti-Serb, anti-minority, anti-gender equality rhetoric, which historically right-wing HDZ now tries to avoid. Moreover, HDZ enjoyed the support of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) in the past, which DPMS excludes.

Finally, a coalition between HDZ and SDP also remains a viable option, as the two parties conducted government formation talks in the past. Based on these constraints and the results of the current polls we present our forecast of government formation in Croatia.

Constraints in coalition formation
Projected seats (bar size) vs. strategic influence of political parties (red lines)

Predicted government coalitions (white line denotes the level of stability)

The most stable (and the most likely) scenarios imply an HDZ-dominated government, which also includes minorities and smaller parties. Coalitions with Restart or DPMS are also possible, but are less likely, as they imply that HDZ will have to give up a higher share of power.

Social Democratic Party may be leading the new government in Croatia

The upcoming parliamentary elections in Croatia are to take place before December 2020 and may be scheduled for as early as the beginning of July depending on the epidemiological situation. The current public health crisis may have played to the benefit of the center-right Croatian Democratic Movement (HDZ), the leading party in the government of Croatia, as its support is growing according to the public opinion polls. The central-left Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP), the second major political force, on the contrary, has seen a certain decline.

The Croatian political landscape has been long dominated by these two political forces. According to the current polls, a very limited number of other political parties will be able to surpass the 5% electoral threshold. This situation has been particularly criticized by a former presidential candidate and folk musician Miroslav Škoro, who founded the Homeland Movement party (DPMS) in February of 2020. By now, the party has gained sufficient support to enter the new Croatian parliament and enjoys the status of the third-largest political force. The fourth party expected to be able to join the legislature is the center-right Bridge of Independent Lists (Most).

We consider the following constraints in coalition formation. In 2017, Most left the governing coalition with HDZ, as some of the HDZ members were accused of tempering financial statements of Agrokor, a major Croatian agribusiness conglomerate, which went insolvent and filed for state support. The cooperation between these two parties is, therefore, excluded in our analysis. A joint coalition between DPMS and HDZ is also not considered due to harsh criticism on both sides. An alliance of HDZ and SDP is not excluded, as tthe two parties conducted government formation talks in the previous election cycle. Based on these constraints and the results of the current polls we present our forecast of government formation in Croatia.


Constraints in coalition formation

Projected seats (bar size) vs. strategic influence of political parties (red lines)

Predicted government coalitions (white line denotes the level of stability)

Both predicted scenarios enjoy an equal stability level (are equally likely). SDP is expected to lead the new government despite the decline in electoral support, as it can choose between potential coalition partners, HDZ or DPMS.