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Croatian Conservatives Win Election But Fall Short of Majority

  • VOA News

Tomislav Karamarko, president of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), speaks after exit polls in Zagreb, Croatia, Nov. 9, 2015.

Tomislav Karamarko, president of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), speaks after exit polls in Zagreb, Croatia, Nov. 9, 2015.

Croatia's conservative opposition has won the most seats in the country's parliamentary elections, but not enough to govern on its own.

The electoral commission said Monday that with 99 percent of the vote counted, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won 59 seats in the 151-member parliament. The ruling Social Democrats finished with 56 seats. A newer party called Most, or Bridge, won 19 seats and will be key in the negotiations to form a coalition government.

Conservatives led by former intelligence chief Tomislav Karamarko campaigned on a platform highly critical of the government of center-left Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic for allowing hundreds of thousands of mostly Middle Eastern migrants free passage through the country in recent months.

Karamarko, whose nationalist-minded followers guided Croatia to independence from the Serb-dominated former Yugoslav federation, also used his campaign to highlight patriotism and promise new jobs in the mainly Roman Catholic nation of 4.4 million people.

But the HDZ was voted out of power in 2011, following a series of high profile scandals involving then-prime minister Ivo Sanader.

Milanovic's ruling coalition campaigned on the promise of steady economic growth, while repeatedly attempting to tie the opposition to corruption.

A child looks at a ballot being cast at a polling station in Zagreb, Croatia, Nov. 8, 2015.

A child looks at a ballot being cast at a polling station in Zagreb, Croatia, Nov. 8, 2015.

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