June 7, 2016 / 9:07 AM / a year ago

Croatia's HDZ party wants PM Oreskovic to step down

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia’s conservative HDZ party, the biggest in the ruling centre-right coalition, filed a no-confidence motion against technocrat Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic on Tuesday.

Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic addresses a news conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, March 1, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

HDZ helped install Oreskovic less than five months ago, but has since fallen out with him in dispute over an alleged conflict of interest related to business ties of the wife of the HDZ leader and Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko.

“This government is not functional. We can pursue reforms only with new people. There is still time for new, homogenous and reshuffled government,” Karamarko said.

The vote on HDZ’s motion, signed by 42 deputies, is expected to take place late next week. HDZ said in the motion that Oreskovic “had failed to tackle economic issues, which are a priority for Croatia”.

“Instead, he has been keeping political tension in the country with the aim of boosting his own political power,” the HDZ said.

The move follows Oreskovic’s demand from last week for Karamarko to step down over a row with coalition partner, the small reformist party Most (Bridge).

Most wants Karamarko to leave the government because of an alleged conflict of interest due to his wife’s business ties with a lobbyist for Hungary’s energy group MOL with which the Zagreb government is in dispute over management rights and investment strategy in Croatia’s energy firm INA.

Oreskovic dismissed HDZ’s call. “Karamarko is a huge burden for the government, and the HDZ and I hope the HDZ will make right decisions,” he told reporters.

It was due to Most’s insistence on a technocrat prime minister that the HDZ brought Oreskovic in as a financial expert to help get the newest European Union member out of the economic crisis.

The government in the meantime adopted reforms aimed at boosting the investment climate and growth, and cutting public debt that is at 87 percent of gross domestic product.

The main opposition party, the Social Democrats (SDP), which had earlier filed a no-confidence motion against Karamarko, said they wanted the government’s removal and a snap election.

“The election is a last solution as it would mean losing time, although I‘m optimist even in the case of new election,” Karamarko said.

Many analysts believe Karamarko’s intention of forming a new parliamentary majority is likely to fail.

A new prime minister-designate would have to prove support from at least 76 deputies in the 151-seat parliament and would get 30 days to form a cabinet. In case of failure, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic would have to call snap election.

Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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