Contemporary Southeastern Europe
Election Analyses

Croatian Presidential Elections 2019-2020

  • Katarina Peović
Presidential elections held in Croatia on 22 December 2019 (first round) were the seventh presidential elections since Croatian independence in 1991. The presidential elections ended on 5 January 2020 in the second round with Zoran Milanović as the winner with a relative majority of 52.66% of the vote. Milanović defeated the conservative incumbent Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who received 47.34% of the vote. This was a disappointment for her party, the Croatian Democratic Union (Hrvatska demokratska zajednica, HDZ), especially because of the upcoming intra-party and parliamentary elections. Milanović, a member of the main center-left political party in Croatia, the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (Socijaldemokratska partija Hrvatske, or SDP), and who had previously served as Prime Minister of Croatia (2011-2016), become the 5th president of Croatia. Western media acclaimed social democrat Zoran Milanović’s election victory as a victory for the “left”. However, it is more likely a win for the “new extreme center” in Croatia, keeping in mind that during his premiership he “…implemented neoliberal reform of labor law severely slashing workers’ rights, introduced a controversial bankruptcy settlement law, and led a final phase of large-scale privatization of public infrastructure and resources”. This analysis will show why Milanović’s victory must be seen primarily as a consequence of fear on the part of Croatian civil society, who chose the “lesser evil” in order to defend itself from the growing and radicalizing right.