ZAGREB — Croatia's president opened talks with parliamentary parties on Thursday to try and name a prime minister-designate and end a political stalemate after an election 18 days ago failed to produce an outright winner.
The lack of a decisive outcome has caused concerns among analysts, coming as a huge influx of migrants passes through the European Union's newest member, which is slowly emerging from six years of recession and in need of economic reforms.
The conservative opposition bloc led by the HDZ party narrowly won the November 8 election, taking 59 seats, but failed to achieve the majority needed to form a government, sparking a frenzy of negotiations.
The centre-left alliance, led by the Social Democrats and Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, won 56 seats but has since secured the support of 10 deputies from smaller parties and minority groups, increasing its chances of staying in power.
"The talks already look like an endless story, a story with an uncertain end," Milica Vuckovic of Zagreb's Faculty of Political Sciences told national radio on Thursday.
With final results confirmed this week by the election commission, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic must, according to the constitution, consult with parties to assign a prime minister-designate who has the support of the majority of MPs.
The PM-designate has up to 60 days to secure support for a cabinet and if unsuccessful another candidate can be named, but after a second failure the president must call fresh elections.
Some legal experts said she could call immediate elections if she sees no candidate has enough support.
After Thursday's talks Grabar-Kitarovic said another round of consultations would be held on December 7, as none of the candidates had yet secured enough support.
She also set the new parliament's first session for next Thursday.
The main leaders rivalling for the post – Milanovic and HDZ president Tomislav Karamarko – meanwhile stressed that the final outcome would depend on new political party Most ('Bridge' in Croatian), which emerged as likely kingmaker in the election with an unexpected 19 seats.
"We have not decided... but we are committed to national unity and reforms," said Most leader Bozo Petrov, whose party has show signs of disunity under the pressure of negotiations.
Political analyst Andjelko Milardovic said Croatia faced "time pressure" to form a government given the migrant crisis and global terror threats.
Early elections would be the "worst solution" as more time would be lost, he said, stressing the pressing need for complex economic reforms.
Nearly 450,000 refugees and migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa have passed through Croatia since mid-September on their way to northern Europe. — AFP