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Croatia PM Ousted by the Party That Backed Him

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It was not “Et tu, Brute”; more like “Et tu, et tu, et tu.”

After less than six months in office, Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic of Croatia was ousted on Thursday in a no-confidence vote called by the very party that selected him in the first place.

The move brought down the government in Zagreb and ended a brief, tense union between reformers and the Croatian Democratic Union, the country’s nationalist right-wing party, which chose Mr. Oreskovic to lead with the approval of reformers.

“Never in the history of Croatia’s democracy has the ruling majority, or a portion of it, moved to recall the prime minister it has chosen,” Mr. Oreskovic said.

The no-confidence vote passed 125 to 15, with two abstentions. Croatia could face another election should a new government not take shape within 30 days.

Mr. Oreskovic, 50, a pharmaceutical executive and political novice, emerged after November elections forced the nation’s largest party, the Croatian Democratic Union, to join with MOST, a reformist group riding a wave of voter disaffection. He took office in late January.

The convoluted power-sharing plan saw the two party leaders — the Democratic Union’s Tomislav Karamarko and MOST’s Bozo Petrov — sharing deputy prime minister roles. Mr. Oreskovic, an outsider who was raised in Canada, cited his business experience and executive know-how as qualities that would help him guide the economy out of the doldrums. At the same time, the country was also grappling with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants.

The small nation of 4.2 million people emerged from a six-year recession last winter and showed promising signs of growth. Mr. Oreskovic proposed a battery of changes. The economy has continued to improve, and the tourism season has begun, but unemployment remains stubbornly high, about 15 percent.

During the no-confidence vote on Thursday, the prime minister’s business background and political inexperience, once welcomed, were used against him. “Croatia isn’t a corporation,” said Domagoj Ivan Milosevic, a Croatian Democratic Union member who had been one of Mr. Oreskovic’s supporters.

Yet his downfall came about not because of economic or migration policies, but rather through a rupture in the government partnership over a scandal. Mr. Karamarko stepped down as deputy prime minister on Wednesday, after an ethics committee found that he had a conflict of interest over his wife’s business dealings with a lobbyist for a Hungarian energy company that has a controlling stake in Croatia’s national oil company, INA.

The Hungarian company, MOL, has been locked in an arbitration suit with the Croatian government over accusations of corruption in INA’s sale. Mr. Karamarko had suggested that Croatia pull out of the arbitration hearings, which was opposed by Mr. Oreskovic.

The dispute led to a falling-out between Mr. Karamarko and Mr. Oreskovic, which the latter claimed led to his downfall as members of the Croatian Democratic Union, Mr. Karamarko’s party, turned against Mr. Oreskovic.

“I did not expect this. Who would have expected it?” Mr. Oreskovic said after his removal. “I came with global experience in the financial and economic sectors. I had a lot to offer.”


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Sydney Chesterfield

Poet, Playwright, Philosopher, Humanitarian, mad lover of children and unflinching fighter for equality on all grounds viz. Women's rights, child rights, sine die.

Twitter: @syd_field