November 11, 2015 / 5:34 PM / in 3 years

Croatia's likely kingmaker wants all key parties in new government

ZAGREB (Reuters) - The head of Croatia’s new reformist party, which is likely to hold the balance of power in forming a new government, said on Wednesday it wanted a government of national unity that included itself and the two major parties.

Parliamentary elections last weekend ended with neither of the main parties, the opposition conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the outgoing center-left coalition led by the Social Democrats (SDP), winning an outright majority.

The former took 59 seats in the 151-seat parliament, the latter 56 seats. Thus, the role of the likely kingmaker fell on the three-year-old Most (Croat for “bridge”) party, which won 19 seats.

“We opened today talks with both HDZ and SDP,” the head of Most, Bozo Petrov, told a news conference. “Our priority is the economy, and we think we need unity to deal with economic problems. That’s why we proposed a government made of HDZ, SDP and us.”

The HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko rejected the idea. There was no immediate reaction from SDP.

“How can we sit at the same table with those that ruined the Croatian economy,” Karamarko said on Nova TV.

Most says it is determined to overhaul Croatia’s inefficient public sector and judiciary. It also wants the central bank to take a more active role in boosting a fragile economy, which is just now recovering after six straight years of recession.

“For some reforms we need to change the constitution,” Petrov said. “That is why we want both HDZ and SDP to overcome differences and participate. We will continue with the talks. We will also propose our candidate for prime minister.”

Most, a party comprising successful municipal politicians and experts in various fields, tapped into voter dissatisfaction with the failure of the two biggest parties to handle the country’s economic problems.

“Croatia is in very serious economic situation and dramatic international circumstances related to the migrant crisis and problems within the EU. It requires a national consensus and joint action,” Most said.

Croatia is on the Balkan route for migrants from the Middle East and Africa trying to reach Germany and other countries in western Europe. Some 350,000 migrants have passed through since mid-September. On Wednesday, Slovenia started erecting fences to control the flow of migrants from Croatia.

Last week, the European Commission urged Zagreb to cut its public debt, around 90 percent of gross domestic product, and budget deficit, which is nearly three percent of GDP.

Some analysts say a key danger for Most is whether it will be able to stick together as it gathers people of various political profiles. Petrov rejected the idea of any discord within the party.

“I hope there will be enough political wisdom in HDZ and SDP to accept our proposal and devote at least the next two years to working for public good,” Petrov said.

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic will start formal consultations with parliamentary parties on forming the new government next week.

Reporting by Igor Ilic, editing by Larry King

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