Cock-A-Doodle-Doo: The Slavic Turn Left

by Jackie_South on December 7, 2011

It has been a grim time for the Left in Europe of late: with the Socialists losing power in Spain last month, all the large countries of Europe are in the hands of the right.  Greece’s PASOK has handed over the keys to the technocrats.  Of those countries that started 2011 with a left-wing government, only Slovenia and Cyprus remain.  More of the former of these later.

I’m keen therefore in celebrating the few victories the left do achieve.  In September, we marked the victory of Helle Thorning-Schmidt in Denmark.  December is already shaping up to be a happier month for the European left than November.  Today, Belgium finally managed to sign up to the forming a government after a mere 589 days of deadlock, with openly-gay Francophone Socialist Elio Di Rupo made Prime Minister.

But the weekend had two elections in the Balkans which were some cause for cheer.

Croatia

Ever since its independence, Croatia has been ruled by the right-wing HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) created by Franjo Tudman.  Even though it only won 66 of the 151 seats in Parliament in 2007, it was able to form a government. 

Its last two and a half years have been traumatic for Croatia’s rulers though: not only the impact of the recession that has claimed scalps across Europe but also a corruption scandal that had its Prime Minister Ivo Sanader first resign in June 2009 and then charged with corruption last December – he promptly did a runner to Austria, had to be extradited back and is likely to be tried next year.  It’s enough to almost make you feel sorry for his sucessor Jadranka Kosor.

The leader of the Social Democrats, Zoran Milanovic, pulled together a coalition of four left-leaning parties (SDP, the People’s Party, the Istrian Democrats and the Pensioners Party) to contest the election under the flag of the Kukuriku coalition: literally ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ and named, Granita-style, after the restaurant where the deal was made.

On Sunday, Kukuriku swept to power, taking 81 of the 151 seats on 40.4% of the vote.  HDZ and its coalition fell to 47 and 23.5% of the vote.  Two other parties got 6 seats each: the left-wing populist Labour Party and the regional right-wing populist HDSSB (the Croatian Democratic Alliance of Slavonia and Baranja), the Serbian social democrats got 3 seats and there are 8 MPs from various minor parties.

61 of Kukuriku’s 81 seats are held by the SDP, 13 by the People’s Party and three each by the Istrians and Pensioners.

As the map below shows, Kukuriku won more seats than any other party in eight of the ten electoral districts, taking a majority of the seats throughout central Croatia and Istria, with particular strong showings in Istria (8th district) with 11 of the 14 seats up for election and north-central Croatia (3rd district, including some Zagreb suburbs) where it took 10.

Croatia has ten electoral districts, each electing 14 MPs on a party list basis. 

It then has two further virtual districts: the eleventh elects three MPs from the votes of Croatians living abroad (who invariably vote HDZ) and the twelfth elects 8 MPs to represent minority groups: this time, one of these was SDP, 3 were Serbian social democrats and there are four other minor party representatives.

HDZ traditionally does better in those areas most directly affected by the war following independence: Slavonia in the east (districts 4 & 5) and Dalmatia along the southern coast (districts 9 & 10).  Even here, Kukuriku took more seats than HDZ in two districts (the northern Slavonia 4th centred on Osijek and the southern Dalmatian 10th based around Dubrovnik).  Only the north Dalmatian 9th had a clear majority for HDZ (8 seats to Kukuriku’s 6).  The graph below summarises this.

Slovenia

As George East wrote back in September, the elections were seen as likely to punish the Social Democrats in Slovenia, and indeed the election was prompted by the fall of their government in a vote of no confidence.  They too held their election on Sunday, with the centre-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) expecting to waltz back into power.

But it didn’t go to plan for them.  Whilst the Social Democrats indeed did fall from 28 to only 10 of the ninety MPs, SDS did not gain, slipping from 28 to 26 seats.  Instead, a brand new centre-left party  – Positive Slovenia – took 28 and its leader, Ljubljana mayor (and half Serb) Zoran Jankovic, is likely to become the new Prime Minister if he can cobble together support from the Social Democrats and 7 others  – either from the 8 centrist Civic List MPs or the 6 Pensioners’ Party (pensions are a big issue in the Balkans) representatives plus the minority representatives for the Hungarian and Italian communities.

The right are frothing mad about their loss, with conservatives in the east of the country threatening sucession in fear that Jankovic may be too Ljubljana-focused.

The rest of us should take comfort from the good sense of the people of the Balkans this week in electing the two Zorans.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Killingworth December 7, 2011 at 8:10 am

So that’s where I’ve been going wrong… never had the chance to elect a Zoran…

Reply

Eddie Kaye December 7, 2011 at 11:19 am

Do you read far enough down the ballot slip to get to Z Mike? Most voters are so lazy that if you changed your name to Aaron A Aaronson of the AAAAAA Party you would be a dead cert.

Reply

George_East December 7, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Ah yes, just like mincab companies in the yellow pages: AAAAAAAAAA1 cabs, to be first number you come to.

Reply

Eddie Kaye December 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm

…and I thought my local plumber’s name really was Mr Aadvark???

Reply

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