Croatian Election Rivals Eye Four Big Cities :: Balkan Insight

Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic at the poles. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Stipe Majic

Some 3.7 million Croatian voters will be heading to the polls on Sunday for the local elections, choosing representatives for neighbourhood, city, municipality and county assemblies, as well as directly electing mayors, municipal heads, and county prefects.

The elections come amidst a political crisis, after the coalition between the centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, and its junior partmer, the Bridge of Independent Lists, MOST, collapsed in late April.

The strongest opposition parties – Social Democratic Party, SDP, and the Croatian People’s Party, HNS – as well as the anti-establishment Living Wall, are spying their chances.

With talk of early elections in September, the big parties hope to prove their ratings, especially in the country’s four biggest cities, Zagreb, Split, Rijeka and Osijek.

The focus is in the capital, where Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic, once a senior member of the SDP, faces potential defeat after 17 years in power.

According to a survey from Promocija plus polling agency published for private RTL TV on Thursday, in the first round of the election Bandic stands to get 25.3 per cent of the votes, closely followed by Anka Mrak-Taritas, candidate of the HNS, the SDP and some other opposition parties, with 24.1 per cent.

Anka Mrak-Taritas, Bandic’s main contender in Zagreb. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Stipe Majic

Bandic’s former deputy, Sandra Svaljek, has a chance of entering the second round. Supported by the HDZ’s partner, the Croatian Social Liberal Party, HSLS, she is on 16.7 per cent.

She is followed by an independent right-winger, Bruna Esih – still supporting the HDZ-led government in the parliament – while the HDZ’s candidate, Drago Prgomet, is in fifth place with only 7.7 per cent support.

According to this survey, the result between two main candidates would also be close in the second round, with Bandic likely winning 41.2 and Mrak-Taritas 40.5 per cent of the votes. However, Svaljek would beat Bandic if they both entered the second round – with 46.3 against 37.3 per cent.

The situation will also be close in the second biggest city, Split, where the independent Zeljko Kerum, a local entrepreneur and former mayor between 2009 and 2013, who uses US President Donald Trump’s slogan “Yes I Can”, is the likely old-new mayor.

Promocija plus’s survey shows that in the first round he stands to poll 29.6 per cent, followed by the HDZ’s Andro Krstulovic Opara with 27 per cent.

The result between the two could be even more evenly balanced in the second round, where Krstulovic Opara would win 38.6 per cent, just ahead of Kerum’s 38.2 per cent.

The SDP meanwhile risks losing its mayor in the coastal city of Rijeka for the first time since Croatia’s independence. According to a survey by the polling agency Ipsos for Nova TV, the SDP Mayor, Vojko Obersnel, in power for 17 years, stands to win 36.5 per cent in the first round, leaving the independent Hrvoje Buric far behind with 16.9 per cent.

However, in the second round, Obersnel would win 46.9 per cent, while Buric would win 44.7 per cent.

The HDZ is traditionally stronger in Croatia’s smaller cities and towns, often winning power in most counties and municipalities.

MOST meanwhile looks to bolster its image as the third strongest party behind the HDZ and SDP, with a special focus on the small Dalmatian town of Metkovic, which bears special symbolic importance since the party emerged and entered the arena of national politics from there.