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Croatia: Opposition protesters call for early elections

February 17, 2024

Saturday's protests were prompted by the government's appointment of a new attorney general, whom the opposition accuse of complicity in corruption. Elections are due to be held this year, but a date has yet to be set.

People gather at an anti-government rally organised by the opposition that seeks immediate elections in Zagreb, Croatia, February 17, 2024.
The protests were prompted by parliament's appointment of former judge Ivan Turudic as new state attorneyImage: ANTONIO BRONIC/REUTERS

Thousands of Croatians took to the streets on Saturday, answering the opposition's call for protests to demand this year's parliamentary elections be held as soon as possible.

Some 11 center and left-wing opposition parties organized the protest, prompted by parliament's appointment of former judge Ivan Turudic as the new attorney general. Opposition groups argue Turudic has ties to people involved in corruption, which he denies.

Croatia is due to hold parliamentary and presidential elections this year, though an exact date has yet to be set.

What do we know about the protests?

Protesters gathered at Zagreb's St Mark's Square, at the old part of the capital, near the parliament and government buildings.

Some of those taking part waved flags and posters showing a clenched fist. Banners held read slogans such as: "Rubicon was crossed" and "Enough of corruption and crime."

"Enough of tyranny, enough of lies, enough of corruption, enough of HDZ [the ruling party in Croatia]," the leader of the main opposition Social Democrats (SDP) Pedja Grbin was quoted by the French AFP news agency as telling the crowd.

An anti-government protester holds a banner that shows Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, left, and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, during a protest at the St. Mark square in Zagreb, Croatia, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024.
Some of the chants and banners particularly targeted conservative Prime Minister Andrej PlenkovicImage: Darko Bandic/AP/picture alliance

Some of the chants called on conservative Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic to leave. Others booed and jeered at his mention, as well as that of his party, chanting "elections now!"

"Our power is in our pens, in our hands," the Associated Press news agency quoted Davorko Vidovic of the SDP as saying, referring to the upcoming elections. "Our land and our people deserve the best decision. We must not allow them to take us into an autocracy."

The opposition's growing dissatisfaction

Plenkovic has defended Turudic's appointment, whereas opposition parties have lodged a formal demand to dissolve parliament.

Sandra Bencic, a lawmaker of the Mozemo ("We Can" in Croatian) party, described Turudic's appointment as the "final straw." She argued that "the government no longer has any legitimacy and must leave."

Turudic is accused of having ties to the fugitive former Dinamo Zagreb football club executive, Zoran Mamic, who was convicted of tax evasion but evaded jail by fleeing to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2018. 

However, in 2012, Turudic also sentenced former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, an HDZ politician, to 10 years in prison.

Reforming the judiciary and combating corruption were among the criteria Croatia needed to meet in order to join the European Union, which it eventually did in 2013.

Croatians share mixed feelings on euro

rmt/msh (AFP, AP)