In polls held to 576 local and regional government bodies in Croatia on Sunday, May 16, the incumbent center-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) continued its dominance, even as the green-left coalition is likely to win the capital city of Zagreb. The elections were held in 20 counties, 128 cities and 428 municipalities across the country.
In 70 cities, the heads were elected in the first round of voting on Sunday. Of these, the HDZ won 36 mayorships and the major opposition party, the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP), managed 13. Of the six counties that elected prefects in the first round, HDZ secured four. Other counties and cities will have runoffs on May 30 to elect their mayors and prefects.
In three major cities, the incumbent HDZ failed to achieve major breakthroughs. In Zagreb, Tomislav Tomasevic, leader of Mozemo! (We can!) from the green-left coalition, secured 45.15% votes while his nearest rival Miroslav Skoro, leader of the right-wing Homeland Movement, won only 12.6% votes. He will now take on Tomislav in the second round. In the 47-seat Zagreb Assembly, the green-left coalition won 23 seats, falling one seat short of simple majority. It may form a coalition with the SDP which won five seats.
In Split, the second largest city in Croatia, Ivica Puljak from the liberal Center party won 26.82% votes and will take on Vice Mihanović from the HDZ (23.23% votes) in the second round. In Rijeka, the third largest city and a traditional SDP stronghold, Marko Filipović from the SDP (30.25%) will take on independent center-right candidate Davor Štimac (16.10%) in the second round. Here, Katarina Peović from the Workers Front (RF) failed to gain much support as the party moved out of the green-left coalition and contested independently.
The green-left coalition formed in 2017 was composed of parties including We can!, New Left, Sustainable Development of Croatia(ORaH), Workers Front(RF), Zagreb is Ours and For the City groups. In 2020 parliamentary elections, the coalition secured 7 MPs including Tomislav Tomasevic and Katarina Peović. Later, Workers Front(RF) dissociated from the coalition.
In his analysis published in the Balkan Insight on May 19, political commentator Marcus Tanner opined that “Tomislav Tomasevic’s imminent victory in Zagreb matches a pattern emerging across Europe – where big cities choose radical mayors – but not ones drawn from the traditional parties of the left.”
With the local polls indicating a decline in the popularity of the SDP, various progressive circles in Croatia have called for a restructured and more united left progressive front in the country to challenge the HDZ and other right-wing political forces.