A Far-Right Party Emerges as a Possible Kingmaker in Croatia

A far-right party emerged on Thursday as a potential kingmaker in Croatia after the governing conservatives finished first in a bitterly contested parliamentary election but fell short of winning enough seats to form a new government.

The outcome of Wednesday’s vote signaled a new era of messy political uncertainty in the Balkan nation, which has been dominated by one party, the Croatian Democratic Union, or HDZ, since 1991 when it declared independence from Yugoslavia.

The HDZ, led by the incumbent Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, won 61 seats in the 151-member legislature, according to the near-final official tally. That was more than all its rivals, including Rivers of Justice, a left-leaning coalition formed by President Zoran Milanovic, which won 42 seats to finish second. The far-right Homeland Movement finished third with 13 seats.

Speaking early Thursday in Zagreb, the Croatian capital, Mr. Plenkovic said his party had “convincingly won” but acknowledged that he would need help from rival groups to form a government and secure a third term as prime minister.

He later said in a post on Facebook that talks had already started with potential allies that he did not name. “Everything is going well,” he said, and predicted that a government would be formed “soon.”

Tihomir Cipek, a political science professor at the University of Zagreb, said the result reflected a general trend in Europe, particularly among new members of the European Union, which Croatia joined in 2013. “The political center starts losing voters to parties on the far right and far left that are a reaction to Europeanization,” he said.

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