Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Tomislav Karamarko declared his party's victory in Sunday's parliamentary election, stressing that the HDZ "is open to cooperation with everybody, regardless of partisan differences, for the sake of a supra-party called Croatia".

"We must say that we have won the parliamentary elections, and this is the crown of all our (election) victories in the last three and a half years. This victory brings us to the position of responsibility for running our country which is in a difficult situation," Karamarko said at the party's election headquarters.

With only 14.30% of the votes counted by 10pm on Sunday, the HDZ-led Patriotic Coalition was set to win 63 seats in the 151-seat parliament, while the Social Democratic Party (SDP)'s Croatia Is Growing coalition could count on 52 seats. Later in the night the HDZ was on 61 seats, and the SDP on 53.

"Two thirds of citizens voted for changes. It is absurd that those who citizens voted against are now seeking a new term in office. I didn't know that 53 is higher than 61, and I assure you that this margin will widen until the end of counting," Karamarko said in his first address after incomplete results were published.

He recalled that he had been saying all along that the HDZ would win the vote and again called on those who wanted to change the situation in Croatia to get united.

"We have prepared our programme for two and a half years and we welcome anybody who is ready to fight with us for a higher living standard in Croatia," he said.

"We will fight for each new job ... for each young person who is thinking of leaving Croatia. We will not allow our gradual disappearance as a nation, and our war veterans, (the first Croatian President Franjo) Tudjman and our children deserve to have a better state which we should ensure," the HDZ leader said.

He thanked all those who had contributed to the HDZ victory, including their coalition partners who, he said, were united by their love of Croatia.

He stressed that the reformed HDZ gave priority to the future of the young people in Croatia and that the party was open to cooperation with everybody.

At the end of his speech, Karamarko congratulated the Bridge, an alliance of independent slates, which emerged as the third strongest political force in the election. "I congratulate gentlemen from the Bridge on achieving an enviable result".

"Rejoice our victory. There is no point in twisting the statistics, let's us work for Croatia. The party that has won the largest number of votes must spearhead that struggle," Karamarko said to strong applause.

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