Ivan Vrdoljak, so far the only candidate running for leader of the opposition Croatian People's Party (HNS), on Saturday ruled out the possibility of cooperation between the HNS and the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

"There is not the least chance of our participation (in government)," Vrdoljak told a press conference after a meeting of the HNS main committee. He was asked about a possibility of the HNS joining the coalition with the HDZ.

Vrdoljak recalled that his party was "the first to say 'no' to this kind of government formation and that it would rather go into opposition." He said that the HNS would soon hold a party election at which it would define its goals.

Vrdoljak said that the HNS would be a centrist, civic-oriented party that would be working to improve living standards and boost economic growth in Croatia. He stressed that "extremism and populism must not prevail."

The HNS is scheduled to hold an election convention on April 16. The party's main committee proposed Vrdoljak as HNS leader, Predrag Stromar as first deputy leader, Anka Mrak Taritas and Srdjan Gjurkovic as deputy leaders and Matija Posavec as chairman of the main committee.

Candidates for the highest offices may also be nominated by the party's regional branches or ten percent of voting delegates.

The outgoing leader Vesna Pusic said that she would remain actively involved in the party's activities after the election convention, adding that she was satisfied with what she had achieved during her 20 years in the leadership of the HNS. 

"Croatia has changed for the better, all the values that the HNS has been advocating have become widely accepted in society. The party has grown from two MPs to 10, from 5,000 members to over 40,000. All the efforts have paid off," Pusic said.

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