ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Croatia's conservative opposition has won the Balkan country's first parliamentary election since joining the European Union in 2013, but without enough votes to rule alone and with tough government negotiations looming.
The state electoral commission said Monday that with 99 percent of the vote counted, the conservatives, led by former intelligence chief Tomislav Karamarko, won 59 seats in the 151-seat parliament. The ruling Social Democrats, led by incumbent Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, got 56 seats.
The result means both blocs have failed to win an outright majority and the forming of a new government will depend on several small parties that entered parliament.
The kingmaker will be the third-placed party, Most, or Bridge, with 19 seats.
Milanovic called on Most leaders to start negotiations on the forming of a new government.
Before the election, Most leaders pledged they wouldn't enter a coalition government with any of the big parties, but may give them support in parliament if they offer to carry out radical political, social and economic reforms.
"I don't believe that either of the big parties will agree with our reform proposals," Most leader Bozo Petrov said.
Zarko Puhovski, a political science professor, said that if Most sticks to its pre-election pledges, it "heralds minority government or new elections."
According to the constitution, Croatia's president must consult parliamentary parties and nominate a prime minister-designate who gains the support of the majority of lawmakers. If the prime minister-designate fails to form a new government within two months, new elections are called.
"I believe that we will have a new prime minister-designate soon," said President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, a conservative.
The election Sunday was held amid a huge migrant surge through Croatia and deep economic woes facing the country.
The vote represented a revival for Karamarko's conservative Croatian Democratic Union party, which led Croatia during its war for independence from the Serb-led Yugoslavia in the 1990s and then dominated its political scene for years. Its popularity plummeted after a series of corruption trials against top officials.
Grabar-Kitarovic's presidential election victory earlier this year was a clear sign that Croatia was shifting to the right after the center-left bloc's four-year rule.