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PM and president to clash in Croatia’s parliamentary elections

Parliamentary elections, which will pit Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and President Zoran Milanović against each other, will be held in Croatia on Wednesday (April 17), Euractiv reports.

The clash comes at a time when Croatia is struggling with widespread corruption, chronic labour shortages, the highest inflation rate in the euro zone and persistent illegal migration along its borders.

For months, Plenković’s ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) looked poised to win an easy victory and secure his third term as prime minister, but Milanović has challenged them.

Milanović, whose presidential term expires in January, is backed by the Social Democrats Party (SDP) and argues that he wants to create “a better and more just country.” However, Croatia’s Supreme Court barred Milanović from running for office as the office of president was largely a ceremonial position for someone with no political affiliation. It said he would first have to step down from his post.

At the moment, the HDZ continues to have a strong lead in opinion polls, with around 30 per cent of voter support compared to 20 per cent for the SDP.

Many Croats agree that fighting bribery and fraud was essential to Croatia’s accession to the European Union in 2013. Corruption has long been a weak spot for the HDZ after a string of allegations that have led to the resignation of several ministers in recent years.

Plenković, who has been prime minister since 2016, has emphasised his role in Croatia’s entry into the eurozone and Europe’s borderless Schengen zone. As the country’s longest-serving prime minister, he argues that a vote in favour of the HDZ means “stability, security and development.”

He has repeatedly accused Milanović of violating the constitution and denigrating the country’s political culture by using abusive language. Milanović, for his part, has repeatedly criticised the EU’s support for Ukraine and claimed that the HDZ has failed to stop the arrival of migrants.

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