Croation Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic's cabinet fell Thursday after a no-confidence motion passed with 125 votes in favour, two abstaining and 15 against, increasing the prospect of early elections less than a year since the last polls.
The no-confidence motion was launched by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the larger side in the government coalition, amid feuding with the non-partisan Oreskovic and junior partners less than six months since he took over.
As the largest party in parliament, the HDZ now faces long odds to muster at least 76 out of the 151 votes within a one-month deadline to back its new candidate for prime minister, the outgoing Finance Minister Zdravko Maric.
HDZ has 59 seats, four more than former prime minister Zoran Milanovic's Social Democratic Party (SDP), which backed the no-confidence motion against Oreskovic, but insists on snap polls without delay.
Milanovic showed no interest in trying to snatch the majority in the fragmented parliament.
The junior partner in the outgoing government, Most, also said it will not take part in any attempts to re-forge the cabinet, but instead wants early elections to produce a new parliament.
A newcomer party, Most (Bridge) entered the parliament with an agenda of deep reforms, but was unable to push any of it past the HDZ. Additionally, Most leader Bozo Petrov accused the HDZ chief Tomislav Karamarko of corruption.
Both men were deputy prime ministers in Oreskovic's cabinet.
The allegations gained credence Wednesday when an anti-corruption watchdog ruled that Karamarko violated rules by lobbying for a Hungarian petrol company in a contract dispute with Croatia.
That further complicated the task for HDZ to find enough support from small parties and individual legislators for a new majority.
It also fuelled infighting within HDZ, with several fractions pushing to oust Karamarko before the corruption affair inflicts more damage to the party.
Rebuffing accusations from the HDZ that he was responsible for his cabinet's inefficiency, Oreskovic told the parliament that the party moved to topple him because he asked Karamarko to resign due to the brewing corruption scandal.
He also said that Karamarko only wanted to appoint his cronies to key positions in security structures.
"[He] showed no interest whatsoever for the economy and reforms," said Oreskovic, an international pharmaceutical executive before the HDZ invited him to take the government over following elections in November.
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