Croatia’s Leader Takes Country Rightward With Coalition Pact

(Bloomberg) -- Croatia’s prime minister was on course to steer the Adriatic nation to the political right as he agreed to form a coalition with an anti-immigration nationalist party, though he pledged to maintain his agenda.

Most Read from Bloomberg

Andrej Plenkovic’s Croatian Democratic Union, or HDZ, will aim to secure a parliamentary majority with Homeland Movement, the ruling party said in a statement. Homeland Movement was founded in 2020 after a group of officials split from the conservative party in protest as Plenkovic moderated HDZ’s message in a move to the political center.

Three weeks after suffering an electoral setback and losing his majority, the prime minister pushed back on speculation that the new alliance would dent his political centrism, saying Croatia’s direction “won’t change.”

“We have had achievements in areas of human rights, minority rights, inclusion, and dialog — and they are not going to be rolled back,” Plenkovic told reporters in the town of Jastrebarsko south of Zagreb.

The new majority would give Plenkovic, already Croatia’s longest-serving premier since its 1991 independence, a third term in power after he ran on his successes in adopting the euro and entering the European Union’s visa-free travel area. But a setback in the April 17 parliamentary election gave the prime minister few avenues to regain his majority.

Dejan Jovic, political science professor at the University of Zagreb, said that Plenkovic had made progress in recent years in moving HDZ away from the “radicalism” of the 1990s, when the party led the country’s violent breakaway from Yugoslavia, and reaching out to the political center.

“Without that support, he is now forced into an alliance with the radical right, endangering the measures he had introduced toward minorities, especially Serbs, and liberal aspects in education and public discourse,” Jovic said.

Upended Campaign

Should Plenkovic retain the premiership, Croatia would join a growing number of EU member states with nationalist or anti-immigration platforms in government, including Italy, the Netherlands and Hungary. Homeland Movement has pilloried the government for failing to secure Croatia’s borders and taken aim at “globalism” as a threat to traditional values.

Plenkovic will need a formal invitation from President Zoran Milanovic, his arch-rival who upended the election campaign by entering the race as a Social Democrat in March. Although Croatia’s high court condemned Milanovic’s intervention as head of state, he made few attempts to conceal his goal to succeed Plenkovic.

Read More: Croatia’s Premier Vows to Form Majority After Vote Setback

But the attempt failed. Despite HDZ’s setbacks, it performed well ahead of the Social Democrats, all but quashing Milanovic’s ambitions. Two days after the vote, Croatia’s top court barred the president from becoming prime minister for violating its provisions.

Plenkovic said he will seek to establish a dialog with opposition parties after a “dirty election campaign.”

(Updates with quotes, comments from third paragraph.)

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.