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Croatia to hold July election as virus eases

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This picture taken on May 17, 2020, shows an empty street in the old town of the southern Croatian city of Dubrovnik, as the country eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by DENIS LOVROVIC / AFP)

Croatia will vote in a parliamentary election on July 5, officials said on Wednesday, with the conservative-led government looking to ride a wave of popularity over its handling of coronavirus.

The coalition holds a slim majority in the 151-seat parliament, but opinion polls suggest it could reap the rewards from Croatia’s comparatively low death rate — only 96 confirmed fatalities in the country of 4.2 million.

The government is likely to argue that it is a safe pair of hands and can steer the country through the economic pain that is likely to come — the tourism-reliant economy is expected to shrink by 9.4 percent this year.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said earlier this month that it would be the biggest contraction since the country gained independence in 1991.

His conservative HDZ wants to hold the election as soon as possible — not only because of its current popularly but also because a second wave of COVID-19 infections in autumn could make it impossible to organise a vote.

The government closed schools, restricted travel and ordered businesses to shut in March to halt the spread of COVID-19, but lifted most of the measures in late April.

“The president of the republic decided to call the elections for lawmakers in the Croatian parliament for July 5,” President Zoran Milanovic’s office said in a statement.

The EU member’s parliament was dissolved earlier this week paving the way for general elections.


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