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Croatia Politics

State and politics

On June 25, Croatia (simultaneously with Slovenia) declared itself independent. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how HR can stand for Croatia. Legally, the regime could refer to the right that the Yugoslav Constitution allowed the various peoples of the federation to withdraw from it, while opponents could argue that this right did not belong to the sub-republics as such but to the state-bearing peoples.

Political System of Croatia

In the summer of 1991, the civilian population began devastating battles between the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav armed forces, Serbian and Croatian allies and armed groups. The fighting became part of the violent dissolution of federal Yugoslavia; see the Yugoslav War. Politically, the struggle was whether Croatia should exist within the old borders of the sub-republic or whether areas with the Serbian majority would be separated. Around the turn of the year 1991/92, when one-third of Croatia was controlled by Serbian forces, Croatia generally gained international recognition as an independent state.

GOVERNMENT

The Constitution of the Republic was adopted by the Croatian State Parliament in December 1990, while Croatia was still part of Yugoslavia, and has since been changed on important points. The president, who is head of state and commander-in-chief, is elected directly for five years. The president must not be a member of a political party. Since 2020, Zoran Milanović holds this office.

Until 2000, the president held a strong position, but through a constitutional revision in 2000, parliamentary democracy and thus the power of parliament were strengthened. The president can still announce new elections, but only at the government's request. The government is no longer responsible to both the president and parliament, but only to the latter. Legislative power is exercised by a single-chamber parliament (Hrvatski sabor) with 100-160 directly elected members (151 members after the 2011 election).

The term of office is four years. The voting age is 18 years. The country is divided into twelve electoral districts. Of ten of these, fourteen members are elected according to the proportional method. In addition, following an amendment to the Electoral Act 2011, three members of Croatian nationals residing abroad are elected, as well as eight members representing different national minorities. To get representation in Parliament, the party must get at least 5 percent of the vote. Elections are also held to appoint representatives to regional and local assemblies.

Party politics

Croatian politics has been dominated by the Croatian Democratic Unionist Nationalist Party (Hrvatska Democratic Zajednica, HDZ) just before independence in 1991.

At the first free elections in the Croatia sub-republic in April – May 1990, a majority in Parliament and its leader Franjo Tudjman were elected president of the Croatian sub-republic. The new regime then gradually prepared Croatia's independence. In a referendum in May 1991, boycotted by the Serbian population minority, 93 percent of voters voted for independence. At the 1996 elections, HDZ again became the largest party, and Tudjman was re-elected as president.

During the term of office, Croatia resumed the loss of eastern Slavonia during the Yugoslav war. At the same time, dissatisfaction with the growing economic crisis and a series of political scandals led to the questioning of HDZ's position. In December 1999, President Tudjman passed away after a period of illness. In the 2000 parliamentary elections, HDZ lost power. Ivica Račan (1944–2007), leader of the Social Democratic Party (Social Democratic Party Hrvatske, SDP), was appointed prime minister and formed government together with five small parties, including the Liberal Conservative Croatian People's Party - Liberal Democrats (Hrvatska Narodna Stranka - Liberalni Democracy, Liberal Democracy) the conservative Croatian peasant party (Hrvatska seljačka stranka, HSS), the latter founded as early as 1904.

In the presidential election that year, Stipe Mesić (born 1934) won. He had previously been a member of HDZ but left the party to eventually join the Croatian People's Party. As a presidential candidate, however, he stood outside all party politics. Mesić was re-elected in 2005 for another five-year term.

After the 2003 parliamentary elections, HDZ returned to power and formed a minority government with its new party leader, Ivo Sanader (born 1953), as prime minister. Under his leadership, and while in opposition, the party had moved towards the center, leaving behind the crude expressions of nationalism behind it.

In the November 2007 elections, HDZ formed the government with HSLS and HSS, two of the smaller parties that entered the coalition with the Social Democrats in 2000. At the same time, the SDP went strongly ahead and became the second largest party. In the summer of 2009, Sanader left the Prime Minister's post for "personal reasons" and was succeeded by HDZ's deputy leader, Jadranka Kosor (born 1953).

In 2010, Social Democrat Ivo Josipović was elected new president after pressing hard on the need for power against corruption in the electoral movement. Ivo Sanader was arrested in December 2010 and facing the right suspicion of corruption and abuse of power. He was sentenced in 2012 to a long prison sentence.

Corruption allegations and issues to deal with the Croatian economy led to a major electoral defeat for the HDZ in parliamentary elections in 2011 and the Social Democrats could form a government with the coalition parties in the so-called Kukurikukoalitionen: HSLS, the Istrian Democratic Assembly (Istarski demokratski sabor, IDS) and the Croatian Pensioners Party (Hrvatska stranka umirovljenika, HSU). Zoran Milanović (born 1966) became the new Prime Minister. In the presidential election held around the turn of the year 2014/2015, HDZ resumed the formally unpolitical presidential post when former Foreign Minister and Ambassador Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović was elected the country's first female president after defeating Ivo Josipović in the second round by a small margin.

The 2015 parliamentary elections were held in the shadow of the difficult refugee situation in the Balkan Peninsula and resulted in HDZ becoming the largest party. Together with several smaller parties, HDZ was part of a right-wing nationalist coalition that together got 59 out of 151 seats in parliament. The SPD, which was part of a center-left coalition, received 56 seats. The new party Most nezavisnih list (MOST) was given a rallying role with 19 seats. After negotiations, the party-politically independent businessman Tihomir Oresković (born 1966) in 2016 was commissioned to form government with ministers drawn from HDZ (14 ministerial posts) and MOST (6 ministerial posts).

As early as the summer of 2016, the government was forced to resign following a vote of no confidence initiated by HDZ. Parliament was dissolved and new elections were announced, which was held on September 11, 2016. The electoral movement was dominated by the weak development of the Croatian economy, the country's high unemployment rate, social welfare shortages and relations with neighboring countries, especially Serbia. The parties were criticized in the election movement for having similar electoral programs. To some extent, nationalist rhetoric advocated by HDZ came to be a water divider. Since Hungary closed the border with Serbia in October 2015, the route through Croatia was used instead as an escape route. HDZ accused the government of being ill-prepared for the events and should therefore resign. HDZ also announced that the party wanted to introduce stricter border controls, which was contrary to the government's line.

Opinion polls showed that the SDP at the head of the "People's Coalition", which included three more parties, had the greatest chance of winning. However, the election results showed that HDZ, under its new leader Andrej Plenković (born 1970), received an increased number of seats, while support for SDP decreased.

The turnout was just under 53 percent, which was significantly lower than in the previous election. Croatia's subsequent government was led by HDZ leader Plenković. It was based on support from the center-liberal MOST and eight representatives of national minorities. The support corresponded to 82 of the 151 seats in Parliament.

In the presidential elections held at the end of 2019/2020, the Social Democratic former prime minister Zoran Milanović won. He was placed in the second round of elections against incumbent President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.

Croatia: Parliamentary elections

2016 2015
% mandate % mandate
HDZ (coalition) 36.2 61 33.4 59
SDP (coalition) 33.8 54 33.2 56
MOST 9.9 13 13.5 19
Živi zid (coalition) 6.2 8 4.2 1
Other 6 7

Eleven mandates are set up within special constituencies for minorities and foreign-resident Croats.

EU policy

The goal of all governments after 2000 has been to make Croatia a member of the EU and NATO; in the latter organization, Croatia, together with Albania, became a full member in April 2009.

Negotiations on EU membership began in 2004 but were postponed several times, partly because of Croatia's inadequate cooperation with the War Criminal Court in The Hague and an unresolved border conflict with neighboring Slovenia.

In 2011, negotiations were concluded between Croatia and the EU on membership. Croatia signed the agreement on accession to the EU in December 2011. On January 22, 2012, a decisive referendum was held, resulting in a big victory for the jas side, which received 67 percent of the vote.

On 1 July 2013, Croatia became the EU's 28th Member State and in April 2013, the country's first European Parliament elections were held.

Judiciary

Despite independence, Croatia continues to use the laws of the former Yugoslav era. However, judicial reforms in the market economy direction are being implemented. The death penalty was abolished in 1990. The last execution took place in 1987.

Human Rights

In 2013, Croatia became a member of the EU with a demand to fight corruption and improve the rights of minorities. Serbs make up the country's largest minority. They fell sharply in numbers during the 1991-95 war (see History) but have since begun to return to Croatia. However, the readjustment has been problematic and Serbs often face discrimination and hostility. Roma are also vulnerable, and they often find it difficult to access basic community services such as health care, social support and education.

In December 2013, the Croats voted to ban gay marriage. A majority voted for the proposal. The result may mean that Croatia's constitution is changed to prohibit same-sex marriage.

The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and printing. However, journalists may sometimes face threats and violence. In Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, Croatia is ranked 58 out of 180 countries surveyed.

Croatia has been criticized by the UNHCR for lack of reception of asylum seekers and refugees. Many times, protection and support for unaccompanied refugee children are completely lacking.

Heads of State

Kings
about 924 – about 928 Tomislav I
about 928 – about 935 Trpimir II
about 935 - about 945 Krešimir I
about 945 - about 949 Miroslav and Mihajlo Krešimir II
about 949 – about 969 Mihajlo Krešimir II
about 969–997 Stjepan Držislav
997-1000 Svetoslav Suronja
1000 – ca 1030 Krešimir III Suronja
1000 – ca 1020 Gojslav (included)
about 1030–1058 Stjepan I
1058-74 Petar Krešimir IV
1075-89 Zvonimir
1089-90 Step II
1091-95 Almoš (ban of Pannon Croatia)
ca 1093–1097 Petar Svačić
Presidents
1991-99 Franjo Tudjman
1999-2000 Vlatko Pavletić (interim)
2000-10 Stjepan (Support) Mesić
2010-15 Ivo Josipović
2015-20 Kolinda Grabar Kitarović
2020 Zoran Milanović
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