Croatian Government Crisis May 4: Live Updates

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Day 8 of the government crisis.

The debate on the motion of no confidence against Finance Minister Zdravko Marić lasted all day on Wednesday and ended early this morning. No major surprises were heard, with HDZ’s MPs defending their minister and opposition’s MPs demanding that he should go.

Perhaps the most interesting thing during the day was to watch Parliament Speaker and MOST leader Božo Petrov who was presiding. Given the fact that all five deputy speakers of Parliament are against him and want to see him go, he was unable to leave the presiding officer’s chair for the duration of the debate. If he did leave, one of the deputy Speakers would take over, probably suspend the debate and put a motion for Petrov’s dismissal to the vote. So, Petrov was forced to remain seated for 17 hours, with the exception of a few short breaks, demanded by several sympathetic MPs who monitored when he needed a cigarette or a bathroom break.

Today brings us the vote on the motion against Marić, which is expected to happen after 9.30 am. While yesterday evening the chances of the motion being passed seemed rather good, that changed during the night when independent MP Željko Lacković announced that he has changed his mind and would not vote for the Minister’s dismissal after all. Lacković is in Parliament as a substitute MP for Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, so his change of heart is not totally unexpected, given that Bandić is in good relations with HDZ.

Yesterday, the opposition claimed that there were 77 MPs who have publicly stated that they would vote for Marić’s dismissal, and included Lacković in that number. Given that it takes 76 MPs to dismiss a Minister, it would seem that the vote is currently right on the threshold. However, MP Tomislav Saucha, a former member of SDP and now an independent MP, has not stated his position. Although, as a former member of SDP and as a former chief of staff of then SDP’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanović, he was considered a safe vote for Marić’s dismissal, but his silence is telling. His colleagues reportedly could not contact him on the phone yesterday and he did not appear in the Parliament. He is currently under investigation by the State Prosecutor’s Office for allegedly taking money through fake travel expenses and forged documents while he was the chief of staff, so he is in a sensitive position. It remains to be seen whether or not he will appear this morning at the vote. If he does not attend, it will be the same as if he voted to support Marić.

Late last night, MOST submitted a motion to dissolve the Parliament to the parliamentary procedure, which would automatically lead to early parliamentary elections. It is not sure whether the motion has any serious chances of passing at this moment in time and if/when it might be voted on. If the Parliament were to be dissolved today, it would be possible to schedule early parliamentary elections for 4 June, which is also the day of the second round of local elections.

Another issue is the motion of no confidence against Speaker of Parliament and MOST leader Božo Petrov, which has been filed by more than half of MPs (HDZ and its partners, as well as some MPs from the opposition). That motion is certain to be passed once it is put to a vote, but it is not clear whether that might also happen today, or might be postponed until Friday, or even later.

According to the previously scheduled calendar of activities, Parliament is expected to stay in session until Friday and then leave for a long break, which should last until after the first round of the local elections which will take place on 21 May.

This article is going to be updated throughout the day with the latest developments.

MOST leader and former Parliament Speaker Božo Petrov:

“Plenković and HDZ have made a circus of all the state institutions, and I will not participate in it. The citizens should now clearly know what kind of Prime Minister they have. He does not care whether ministries are run by state secretaries or ministers, and they are lying to have the majority in the Parliament. He is interested to have the power in order to protect all those who are involved in matters around Agrokor.

It is very important for them to survive until after the second round of local elections. There will be other MPs who will run over to their side. That is why it is important to them that they usurp the power in the Parliament.”

The parliament will be in recess until Friday at 11 am.

At 10:00 on Friday morning, the Parliamentary Committee on Constitution will hold a meeting which will decide who has the right to preside over the plenary session, given that Speaker Petrov has resigned and it is not clear who has the right to be acting Speaker (given that the rules say it is one of the majority deputy Speakers who should take over, and the opposition claims there is no majority).

Deputy Speaker Željko Reiner (HDZ) has taken the presiding chair. Peđa Grbin (SDP) said that Reiner had no right to preside. There will be another break in proceedings.

Božo Petrov (MOST) has just resigned as Speaker of Parliament.

“Andrej Plenkovic is responsible for this crisis, a crisis that strikes at the very foundations of the Croatian state. Plenković is protecting everything that has happened in Agrokor, which has caused an earthquake in the Croatian economy and in society. He has no political legitimacy to run the government because he has no majority. The current government is missing four Ministers. Today’s voting on Marić is probably one of the worst days in the history of the Parliament, all moral principles have been violated. There is an issue of potential political trade and the use of institutions for personal interests. In order to protect the dignity of the Parliament, I resign as Speaker.”

Prime Minister Plenković says that other parties have to see how they want to proceed.

Prime Minister Plenković is holding a press conference. He says that the result shows that the government has a majority.

The session should be continued at around 14.00

The motion of no confidence against the Finance Minister Marić has been rejected with 75 votes in favour, 75 votes against, and 1 abstention. Most interestingly, MP Tomislav Saucha, former SDP member and chief of staff of SDP’s Prime Minister Milanović, has voted against the motion, which means that he supported the Finance Minister. 76 votes were needed for the motion to be accepted. So, Saucha’s vote was crucial. Independent MP Željko Glasnović did not vote.

The Parliament will now start with the voting. It will first vote on other topics and then on the motion of no confidence against Finance Minister Marić.

The Parliament has continued with its meeting. It seems that the vote on Finance Minister Marić could come soon.

The meeting of parliamentary parties is still in progress.

The Parliament is still in recess.

The government session has started.

The Presidency of Parliament is meeting.

HNS president Ivan Vrdoljak:
“The Parliament should first vote on Marić and Petrov, and then HDZ and Prime Minister Plenković must demonstrate a clear majority in the election of a new Speaker. If there is no majority, we will have new elections.”

Regularly scheduled session of the government should start at 10.00.

The Parliament will be in recess until 10.00. All parliamentary groups have requested a break in proceedings.

The session has started. Speaker Petrov has proposed that MOST’s request for the dissolution of Parliament be included in the parliamentary agenda.

Miroslav Šimić (MOST) says that, if all MPs come today, there will be 76 votes for Marić’s dismissal.

Tomislav Saucha has arrived in the Parliament.

Arsen Bauk, president of the SDP Parliamentary Group, said that, if Marić does not receive 76 votes in his favour, which would actually be clear votes against the SDP’s motion of no confidence, that will mean that HDZ does not have the majority.

According to unconfirmed media reports, MP Tomislav Saucha is expected to be present for today’s vote.

Finance Minister Marić has arrived to the government building, next door to the Parliament.

The HDZ Parliament Group is meeting. Prime Minister Plenković is attending.


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