First official results of the local elections in Croatia show the governing conservative party has lost in key areas. The results of 15 May ballot are very good for the (oppositional) Social Democratic Party, which won in the capital city Zagreb, in Split, and in Rijeka. Zagreb is home to a quarter of the country’s 4.5 million people. The ruling Croatian Democratic Union, known as HDZ, also was defeated in Croatia’s second largest city, Split.
The victories of the Social Democrats and their allies came as a major boost for the recently ousted prime minister Ivica Racan. He said his Social Democratic Party is now a force to be reckoned with ahead of upcoming general elections.
Election observers have linked the poor showing of the HDZ in several areas to the government’s decision to increase cooperation with the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal, which is a key EU condition for Croatia’s membership in the organization. Prime Minister Sanader has said he intends to intensify the search for one of the tribunals main Croatian suspects, General Ante Gotovina, who is accused by the tribunal of atrocities against ethnic Serbs during the Balkan wars. The EU recently postponed membership talks with Croatia because of its failure to extradite the general. But many Croats consider General Gotovina as a hero.