Croatia's ruling conservatives target summer election

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ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia’s conservative ruling party will seek a parliamentary election during the summer depending on the evolution of the coronavirus outbreak, one of its top officials said on Tuesday.

Branko Bacic, head of the Croatian Democratic Union’s (HDZ)parliamentary group, told reporters that could be in June, July or August. “We want the epidemiological conditions to be conducive for organising the elections,” he said.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s government is widely perceived as having successfully limited the spread of COVID-19 and some analysts believe the HDZ wants to take advantage of that by bringing forward a vote originally due for the autumn.

In lockdown for more than a month, Croatia has had just 2,112 coronavirus cases with 83 deaths and began reopening its economy last week.

In one recent public opinion poll, HDZ led with 27.9% of support from the opposition Social Democrats with 23.2%.

Media had been speculating that an election would be held in the summer given the possibility of a second coronavirus wave later in the year. Some quoted HDZ officials anonymously speculating the date could be July 5, 12 or 19.

Parliament must be dissolved between one and two months before.

In recent years, Plenkovic’s government has strongly improved fiscal performance and run a budget surplus for three years, but it has failed to improve the investment climate and reduce the bloated public sector or over-reliance on tourism.

Due to the coronavirus, Croatia expects an economic downturn of 9.4% this year, largely due to a collapse in tourism, which accounts for nearly one fifth of gross domestic product.

Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne