June 22, 2020 — The coronavirus’s resurgence may jeopardize Croatia’s parliamentary elections, slated for July 5, according to one of the ruling HDZ’s top officials. The statement came before a tennis tournament in Zadar opened a pandora’s box of potential infections and bad press.
HDZ’s Vice President Ivan Anušić threw doubt over the parliamentary elections scheduled in just two weeks, claiming the rash of COVID-19 infections emerging over the last five days could postpone the vote or alter the election’s turnout.
“There is a possibility that the parliamentary elections will be postponed,” Anusic told Zadarski List. “I think that’s an option too. In any case, a consensus should be reached on that in Croatia beforehand. No one can cancel the elections by force.”
The government and Civil Protection Directorate have both assured the public the vote will be held as scheduled, though that’s based on current new infection trends holding.
Croatia’s constitution has no explicit procedure for postponing an already-announced parliamentary election. The decision on the election date was made by President Zoran Milanovic, but he cannot just revoke it. Scholars suggest if the situation with the coronavirus were to devolve quickly, the existing Parliament should declare a state of emergency by a two-thirds majority. Or perhaps the Constitutional Court would be in a position to conclude that not all the conditions for holding elections have been met.
Regardless, Anušić casual speculation the election may somehow be postponed coincided with his party suspending all election activities in Osijek-Baranja County, where a second rash of infections includes self-isolation for two of HDZ’s candidates — Josip Škoirć and Ivan Radić.
Anušić does not think that the escalation of the virus will significantly change the mood of voters, but believes that it could still affect the outcome of the election by keeping some people at home.
“Unfortunately, there will be more infections,” he said. “However, we know much more about the virus than three months ago. We know what and whom we must pay the most attention to and there will be no closure or quarantine.”
Prime Minister Andrej Plenković declared victory against the coronavirus, using the falling numbers to justify dissolving parliament and holding elections well ahead of their late-autumn due date.
Plenkovic has argued only his party can see through the difficulties left behind by the pandemic, both economic and public health. COVID-19’s return may damage a central plank of his re-election platform.
Or, it could keep vital voters at home, Anušič said.
“It seems to me that the turnout could be lower than it seemed,” he said. “Who would benefit from that? Well, probably strong, organized parties, whose voters are more persistent.”
The rival Social Dems have not analyzed who would benefit from a possible lower turnout, but they are in a hurry to prepare arguments to prove that the epidemic disqualifies the Government of Andrej Plenković.
“HDZ, because they concluded that it would benefit them, decided to endanger the health of the nation, with the message that they defeated the coronavirus,” said the president of SDP’s MPs club, Arsen Bauk. “Now it turns out that the claim of victory is a lie. Anything that would happen in terms of an outbreak of the epidemic would be entirely the responsibility of the Government, the HDZ leadership and the HDZ Civil Protection Directorate, who gambled with the health of the nation.”