nikola grmoja.jpg
Photograph: HINA / Jure DIVIĆ / mm

Bridge party spokesman Nikola Grmoja said on Tuesday that the party's National Council had unanimously decided to continue talks on the formation of a reformist government with the centre-right Patriotic Coalition led by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) but that the party was also "leaving the door open" to talks on a non-partisan prime minister and a tripartite government with the centre-left Croatia Is Growing coalition led by the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

"We voted on that decision and all 15 elected Bridge members of Parliament and members of the party's National Council agreed to continue negotiations with the Patriotic Coalition solely on the platform of a non-partisan prime minister, and to leave open the door to cooperation with the Croatia Is Growing coalition," Grmoja told reporters after a session of the Bridge National Council and Bridge members of Parliament.

Grmoja said that the National Council had discussed both the SDP's and the HDZ's proposals.

"We first discussed the SDP's position and (SDP leader Zoran) Milanovic's letter which clearly declines the possibility of cooperation with the HDZ and says that the prime minister can only be a person with political legitimacy, meaning Milanovic. They have obviously turned down both our proposals. We then analysed the HDZ's position and saw that they leave open the possibility of a non-partisan prime minister, which is an important condition for us. They also said that they were ready to accept talks with those members of the left coalition who support reforms based on the principle of competence and accountability," Grmoja said while explaining Bridge's decision.

Asked if Bridge members would tell the president of the republic today that the 15 Bridge members would form an alliance with the HDZ, Grmoja answered: "We are not going (to the president's office) with 15 signatures for the Patriotic Coalition. We have made it clear that we are about to begin talks on the formation of a reformist government with a non-partisan prime minister," Grmoja said, adding that the Bridge delegation would tell the president that they would continue negotiations with the HDZ and leave the door open to the Croatia Is Growing coalition.

Asked what kind of a joint government this was if one of the political camps was missing, Grmoja said that Bridge had not refused the third camp, namely the SDP. "The door is open to the third side," he repeated, adding that the Croatian People's Party (HNS, the SDP's coalition partner) was a special problem and the biggest burden on the SDP.

HNS member Goran Beus Richembergh has said that Bridge's negotiations are a farce and that Bridge and the HDZ are only negotiating about how to divide positions.

Grmoja said that Bridge would not support any single camp and that it had not done so. "One side is persistently refusing us, and their coalition members, notably the HNS, are scandalously insulting us," said he.

Asked if Bridge still believed that it was unacceptable for a government including Bridge to have a party prime minister - either from Bridge or from the HDZ - Grmoja said that a prime minister from Bridge was a possible option.

Asked by reporters why reforms were no longer being discussed, having been replaced by discussions about political positions, Grmoja said: "We have both agreed on reforms, and the fact that someone keeps insisting on their position and on being Prime Minister - that's not our problem."

Commenting on HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko's position that a parliamentary majority should be formed first, followed by discussions about a non-partisan prime minister, and on Bridge's position that there could be no parliamentary majority without a non-partisan prime minister, Grmoja said this should be dealt with as a single issue.

"We have been insisting from the beginning that this be dealt with in a package. We will not constitute the parliament, cause unnecessary costs for the state and citizens, and give MPs year-long salaries without forming a clear parliamentary majority. If the parliament is not constituted, we will have a new election," said Grmoja.

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