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The politics of Croatia takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister of Croatia is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in the Croatian Parliament (Sabor). The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. It adopted its current constitution on December 22, 1990, and declared independence from Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991.

Amendments to the Constitution have happened four times:

  • December 15, 1997—additional minority rights and verbiage changes
  • September 11, 2000—changed from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system; the parliament was renamed its historic name of Hrvatski sabor
  • March 28, 2001—Chamber of Counties abolished, the Parliament becomes unicameral
  • June 15, 2001—administrivia


Executive branch

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
President Stjepan Mesić Croatian People's Party-Liberal Democrats 18 February 2000
President-elect Ivo Josipović Social Democratic Party 18 February 2010
Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor Croatian Democratic Union 6 July 2009
Other government parties 6 July 2009

The main executive power of Croatian state is the government (in Croatian: "vlada"), presided by the Prime Minister. The government ministers (the cabinet) are appointed by the prime minister with the consent of the Parliament. The prime minister is the head of government, appointed by the President with the consent of the Parliament who takes his duty when Parliament gives its consent by absolute majority of all representatives.

See also: [1]

Current government

Government ministers are from Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and Croatian Peasant Party (HSS).

The President of the Republic of Croatia is the head of state and is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. A president may not serve more than two terms. The president has limited executive powers, he/she is still commander-of-chief of the armed forces, he/she cooperates in formulation and execution of the foreign policy and the national security policy, represents Croatia home and abroad, convenes Parliament and can bring issues at Government. The main duty of the President is that he/she is granted power to issue decrees with the force of law during war time.

See also: [2]

Legislative branch

The Croatian legislature is the Hrvatski Sabor. The Assembly is unicameral, between 100 and 160 members, exact number was decided by the legislature - elected for a four year term, 140 members in multi-seat constituencies, up to 6 members chosen by proportional representation to represent Croatians residing abroad and 5 members of ethnic and national communities or minorities.

The Chamber of Counties or Županijski Dom used to be composed of three deputies from each of the 21 counties (županije). However, as it had no practical power over the Chamber of Representatives, in 2001 it was abolished and its powers transferred directly to the county governments.

The Sabor meets in public sessions in two periods: January 15 to June 30, and September 15 to December 15. Extra sessions can be called by the President of the Republic, by the President of the Parliament or by Government. The powers of the legislature include enactment and amendment of the constitution; passage of laws; adoption of the state budget; declarations of war and peace; alteration of the boundaries of the Republic; calling referendums; carrying out elections, appointments, and relief of office; supervising the work of the Government of Croatia and other holders of public powers responsible to the Sabor; and granting amnesty.

Decisions are made based on a majority vote if more than half of the Chamber is present, except in cases of national rights and constitutional issues.

See also: [3]

The last parliamentary elections were held November 23, 2003.

Political parties and elections

e • d  Summary of the 2 and 16 January 2005 Croatian presidential election results
Candidates and nominating parties Votes % Votes %
Stjepan Mesić - Croatian People's Party and others 1,089,398 48.92 1,454,451 65.93
Jadranka Kosor - Croatian Democratic Union 452,218 20.31 751,692 34.07
Boris Mikšić 396,093 17.78 - -
Đurđa Adlešič - Croatian Social Liberal Party 59,795 2.68 - -
Slaven Letica - Croatian Party of Rights 57,748 2.59 - -
Ljubo Ćesić 41,216 1.85 - -
Ivić Pašalić - Croatian Bloc - Movement for a Modern Croatia 40,637 1.82 - -
Anto Kovačević - Croatian Christian Democratic Union 19,145 0.86 - -
Miroslav Blažević 17,847 0.80 - -
Miroslav Rajh - Croatian Youth Party 14,766 0.66 - -
Doris Košta 8,721 0.37 - -
Mladen Kešer 7,056 0.32 - -
Tomislav Petrak - Croatian Popular Party 2,614 0.12 - -
Total (turnout 50.57 %) 2,227,073 100.0 2,241,760 100.0
Invalid votes 20,269 35,617
Registered voters 4,403,933 4,392,220
Source: State Election Commission
e • d  Summary of the 23 November 2003 Croatian Parliament (Hrvatski Sabor) election results
Parties and coalitions Votes % Seats % Seat trend Seat change (%)
Croatian Democratic Union (Hrvatska demokratska zajednica) 840,692 33.9 66 43.71 +13,25
Coalition: Social Democratic Party (Socijaldemokratska partija Hrvatske) 560,593 22.6 34 22.52 -5,96
Istrian Democratic Assembly (Istarski demokratski sabor/Dieta democratica Istriana) 4 2.65 0
Party of Liberal Democrats (Libra - Stranka liberalnih demokrata) 3 1.99
Liberal Party (Liberalna stranka) 2 1.32 0
Coalition: Croatian People's Party (Hrvatska narodna stranka) 198,781 8.0 10 6.62 +5.30
Alliance of Primorje - Gorski Kotar (Primorsko-goranski savez) 1 0.66 -0.66
Slavonia-Baranja Croatian Party (Slavonsko-baranjska hrvatska stranka) - 0.00 -0.66
Croatian Peasant Party (Hrvatska seljačka stranka) 177,359 7.2 10 6.62 -4.64
Coalition: Croatian Party of Rights (Hrvatska stranka prava) 157,987 6.4 8 5.30 +2,65
Zagorje Democratic Party (Zagorska demokratska stranka) - 0.00
Međimurje Party (Međimurska stranka) - 0.00
Coalition: Croatian Social Liberal Party (Hrvatska socijalno liberalna stranka) 100,335 4.0 2 1.32 -15.24
Democratic Centre (Demokratski centar) 1 0.66
Croatian Pensioners' Party (Hrvatska stranka umirovljenika) 98,537 4.0 3 1.99
Independent Democratic Serbian Party (Samostalna demokratska srpska stranka) - - 3 1.99
Coalition: Croatian Democratic Peasants Party (Hrvatska demokratska seljačka stranka) 24,872 1.0 1 0.66
Croatian Democratic Centre (Hrvatski demokratski centar) - 0.00
Democratic Prigorje-Zagreb Party (Demokratska prigorsko-zagrebačka stranka) - 0.00
Democratic Union of Hungarians of Croatia (Demokratska zajednica Mađara Hrvatske) - - 1 0.66
German People's Union (Njemačka narodnosna zajednica) - - 1 0.66
Party of Democratic Action of Croatia (Stranka demokratske akcije Hrvatske) - - 1 0.66
Non-partisans 4 2.65
Total (turnout 61.7 %) 2,478,967   151 100.00
Invalid Votes 41,041
Votes Cast 2,520,008
Registered Voters 4,087,553
Source: and IFES.
e • d  Summary of the 25 November 2007 Croatian Parliament (Hrvatski Sabor) election results
Parties and coalitions Votes % Seats % +/–
Croatian Democratic Union (Hrvatska demokratska zajednica) 907,743 36.6 66 43.1 ±0
Social Democratic Party of Croatia (Socijaldemokratska partija Hrvatske) 775,690 31.2 56 36.6 +22
"Green-Yellow Coalition" (Zeleno-žuta koalicija) Croatian Peasant Party (Hrvatska seljačka stranka) 161,814 6.5 6 3.9 –4
Croatian Social Liberal Party (Hrvatska socijalno liberalna stranka) 2 1.3 ±0
Alliance of Primorje-Gorski Kotar (Primorsko-goranski savez) 0 0.0 –1
Democratic Party of Zagorje (Zagorska demokratska stranka) 0 0.0
Zagorje Party (Zagorska stranka) 0 0.0
Croatian People's Party – Liberal Democrats (Hrvatska narodna stranka - Liberalni demokrati) 168,440 6.8 7 4.6 –4
Istrian Democratic Assembly (Istarski demokratski sabor/Dieta democratica Istriana) 38,267 1.5 3 2.0 –1
Croatian Democratic Assembly of Slavonija and Baranja (Hrvatski demokratski sabor Slavonije i Baranje) 44,552 1.8 3 2.0 +3
Coalition Croatian Party of Pensioners (Hrvatska stranka umirovljenika) 101,091 4.1 1 0.7 –2
Democratic Party of Pensioners (Demokratska stranka umirovljenika) 0 0.0
Croatian Party of Rights (Hrvatska stranka prava) 86,865 3.5 1 0.7 –7
Coalition Democratic Centre (Demokratski centar) 184,477 7.4 0 0.0 –1
Green Party – Green Alternative (Zelena stranka – Zelena Alternativa) 0 0.0
Others 0 0.0 –6
Independent Democratic Serbian Party (Samostalna demokratska srpska stranka) (national minority list) Enrolments and vote totals do not include voters for ethnic minority representatives. 3 2.0 ±0
Party of Democratic Action of Croatia (Stranka Demokratske Akcije Hrvatske) (national minority list) 1 0.7 ±0
Other national minority representatives 4 2.6 ±0
Total 2,483,452 100.0 153 100
Source: Adam Carr's Election Archive

Judiciary branch

The Supreme Court (Vrhovni sud) of the Republic of Croatia is the highest court. Court hearings are open, and judgments are made publicly, except in issues of privacy of the accused. Judges are appointed by the National Judicial Council and judicial office is permanent (until seventy years of age). The President of the Supreme Court is elected for a four-year term by the Croatian Parliament at the proposal of the President of the Republic.

See also: [4]

The Constitutional Court (Ustavni sud) of the Republic of Croatia decides on the constitutionality of laws and has the right to repeal a law it finds unconstitutional. It also can impeach the president. The body is made up of thirteen judges for an eight-year term. The president of the Constitutional Court is elected by the court for a four-year term.

See also: [5]

The National Judicial Council (Državno Sudbeno Vijeće) of the Republic appoints all judges. It is a body consisting of a president and fourteen members proposed and elected by the Parliament for four-year terms, maximum two terms.

Regional government

The country is composed of 20 counties (županijas) and one city (grad, Zagreb). The counties and county centres are:

  1. Zagrebačka, Zagreb
  2. Krapinsko-zagorska, Krapina
  3. Sisačko-moslavačka, Sisak
  4. Karlovačka, Karlovac
  5. Varaždinska, Varaždin
  6. Koprivničko-križevačka, Koprivnica
  7. Bjelovarsko-bilogorska, Bjelovar
  8. Primorsko-goranska, Rijeka
  9. Ličko-senjska, Gospić
  10. Virovitičko-podravska, Virovitica
  11. Požeško-slavonska, Požega
  12. Brodsko-posavska, Slavonski Brod
  13. Zadarska, Zadar
  14. Osječko-baranjska, Osijek
  15. Šibensko-kninska, Šibenik
  16. Vukovarsko-srijemska, Vukovar
  17. Splitsko-dalmatinska, Split
  18. Istarska, Pazin
  19. Dubrovačko-neretvanska, Dubrovnik
  20. Međimurska, Čakovec
  21. Grad Zagreb

Counties are regional self-government units that carry out the affairs of regional significance, and in particular the affairs related to education, health service, area and urban planning, economic development, traffic and traffic infrastructure and the development of network of educational, health, social and cultural institutions.

In practice, this autonomy is very limited since counties must obey national laws and executive orders from the national level.

Municipalities and towns are local self-government units that carry out the affairs of local jurisdiction by which the needs of citizens are directly fulfilled, and in particular the affairs related to the organisation of localities and housing, area and urban planning, public utilities, child care, social welfare, primary health services, education and elementary schools, culture, physical education and sports, customer protection, protection and improvement of the environment, fire protection and civil defence.

Political history

Stjepan Radić was a Croatian politician and the founder of the Croatian Peasant Party (CPP, Hrvatska Seljačka Stranka) in 1905. Radić is credited with galvanizing the Croatian peasantry into a viable political force for the first time. Under the pressure from the Great powers (British Empire, France, United States), as well as honouring the secret deals that were struck between the Antanta and the Kingdom of Serbia the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was established and two representatives of Radić's party (by then named the Croatian Common-people Peasant Party) were appointed to the Provisional Representation which served as a parliament until elections for the Constituent could be held. Death threats and threats of violent beatings were made against Stjepan Radić in parliament, without any intervention by the president of the Assembly (Parliamentary speaker). In the Assembly, Puniša Račić, a member of Serbian People's Radical Party from Montenegro, got up and made a provocative speech which produced a stormy reaction from the opposition but Radić himself stayed completely silent. Finally Ivan Pernar shouted, "thou plundered beys". At this Puniša Račić drew out a revolver, shot Pernar and went on to shoot Radić and several other CPP delegates. (source: Zvonimir Kulundžić Atentat na Stjepana Radića/The assassination of Stjepan Radić) Radić was left for dead and indeed had such a serious stomach wound that he died several months later at the age of 57. Following the ethnic tensions triggered by the shooting, in January 1929 King Aleksandar Karađorđević abolished the constitution, dissolved parliament, and declared a royal dictatorship.Radić's violent death turned him into a martyr and he was turned into an icon of political struggle for the peasantry and the working class, as well as an icon of Croatian patriots. The iconography of Stjepan Radić was later used not only by his successor Vladko Maček, but also by other political options in Croatia: right wing or left wing. The Ustaše used the death of Stjepan Radić as proof of Serbian hegemony, and as an excuse for their treatment of Serbs, however many leading CPP figures were imprisoned or killed by the Ustashe. The Partisans on the other hand used this as a recruiting point with CPP members who were disillusioned with the NDH, a latter had one brigade named after Antun and Stjepan Radić in 1943.

The Croatian Communist Party was the only party during socialist Yugoslavia, 1945-1990. The change of the name to League of Communists of Croatia (Savez Komunista Hrvatske, SKH) in the fifties was intended to emphasize the advisory role of the party, while actual power was supposed to be in hands of the working class. There were very few controversies and factional clashes in the SKH. Among the most important was the so called "Croatian Spring" in 1971 when some leaders of the SKH, most notably Savka Dabčević-Kučar and Miko Tripalo attempted to increase the political and economical independence of Croatia from other Yugoslav republics. Although "Croatian Spring" was broken, the leaders lost their political position and were forced into isolation, and less important leaders were persecuted, practically all the intentions of the mentioned national leaders were accepted and introduced in Yugoslavian constitution from 1974.

That constitution was relatively unfortunate in a sense that it did not delimit the responsibilities of the republics and federation in Yugoslavia clearly. As a result, when League of Communists lost its unity and authority, and republics started to make opposite, even aggressive political movements, the central government of Yugoslavia was unable to act. As a result, neither a peaceful break up, nor a military putsch was possible in the time of crisis, and country ended in bloody, tragic war.

In the situation where Serb leaders, especially members of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts and Serbian president Slobodan Milošević started to threaten Croatia and prepare for a war, the first multi-party elections took place in 1990. The League of Communists changed its policy and name to the "Party of Democratic Changes" (SDP), however, the impression of the people was that this party could not respond to Milošević's threats adequately. The right-wing was represented by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), led by the communist general, later Croatian nationalist and dissident Franjo Tuđman.

Third bloc at the elections was Coalition of People's Accord, alliance of mostly moderate nationalist parties that included Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS), Social Democrats of Croatia (SDSH), Croatian Democratic Party (HDS), as well as many prominent veterans of Croatian Spring. Due to voting system that favoured two strong parties, coalition got surprisingly few seats during that election, and HDZ won easily.

However, increased crime in all parts of the society and a growing personal cult of Franjo Tuđman caused revival of the popularity of the at one moment almost dead ex-communist party. Vujić's SDSH united with SDP. HSLS split into two parties, led by their charismatic leaders: Vlado Gotovac's Liberal Party, and the more nationalist Dražen Budiša won administrative control over HSLS. In following years, these two leaders, especially Budisa led inconsistent policy which resulted in a significant drop in support for the once third most important party in Croatia. D. Budisa even left the party at one point, but he was persuaded to return.

For the 2000 elections, the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP) and the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) agreed on a join electoral list as did the Croatian Peasants Party (HSS), Croatian People's Party (HNS), Liberal Party of Croatia (LS), and Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS). Although these six parties went into the election under two separate lists they had negotiated an outline agreement for a coalition before the election and were known as the "šestorica" or "the six".

The six-party centre-left coalition was in power until June 2001 when IDS left the governing coalition over its inability to win greater autonomy for Istria.

HSLS split (again; the initial splitoff formed LS) in 2002; the main faction left the government while a dissenting faction formed LIBRA and stayed in power.

The SDP-led coalition remained in power until the legislative elections of 2003, when they narrowly lost the majority to HDZ and other center-right parties.

HDZ formed a government in December 2003, even though they haven't formed a major coalition with parties like HSS and Croatian Party of Rights (HSP). It appears, however, that the new HDZ, under the leadership of I. Sanader, is positioned significantly more on the center than early HDZ was.

Accession to membership of the European Union is presently a stated national goal for most mainstream parties, although they vary in the amount of cooperation with the EU rules. The main issues remain in the areas of post-war recovery: both political (refugee return, war crime trials) and economic (agricultural import/export policy).

One of the more recent trends in Croatian politics is deep alienation of Croatian public from Croatian political establishment. It manifested itself on the latest presidential and local elections through record low turnouts and support for candidates and options that represented alternative to Croatian political mainstream.

One of the stated reasons for such alienation is in mainstream political parties being oriented towards centre and having almost identical platforms. Another is parties being heavily centralised and perceived more as representatives of their leaders' personal interests than any palpable political platform. Proportional representation voting system which leads to coalition governments that often don't make any political sense - a phenomenon which gained a lot of notoriety after 2005 local elections - also contributed to those trends. Croatian public appears to prefer strong personalities with populist tendencies - like Boris Mikšić, Milan Bandić and Branimir Glavaš - to well-established parties or any particular ideology.

The alienation from Croatian political mainstream has also manifested itself in the dramatic rise of Euroscepticism among general public.

See also



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