After the publication of electoral returns from a little under 45 percent of polling stations shortly after midnight on Sunday, Social Democratic Party (SDP) president Zoran Milanovic addressed those gathered at the party's election headquarters, saying "it's clear that Croatia has decided that there's no going back."

"We will decide in the days ahead in which direction we are going. For four years we have been implementing reforms, protecting the fragile social tissue that has been built for generations from falling apart and sinking under the pressure of the crisis, financial institutions, banks and others who forced us to make cuts and behave mechanically and not like human beings," Milanovic said.

He said that over the last four years "we have shown that we are a highly organised state that knows how to protect its national security and citizens, advocating the highest values. We want to continue this way, but we can't do it alone. We need partners."

He called on everyone who believed that Croatia needed reforms to join the SDP-led coalition "not as leaders but as partners." He said that a new, reform-minded political force, called the Bridge, had emerged in this parliamentary election, inviting them to work together.

"I call upon everyone who wants reforms, but reforms that will take Croatia gradually and intelligently to a place where it belongs, among the beauties of Europe, to join us, not as leaders, but as partners. We are not making any conditions. We want to talk about what we have been doing these four years," he said.

"After four years we can say with a clean face and a clean heart that Croatia is growing, it is more organised than it has ever been in 25 years. It's all the result of this government, my government. Its term has ended. We want to serve our people. I call on all people of good will, and in good faith, to join us in talks on Croatia's future as early as tomorrow," Milanovic said.

His speech received loud applause.

SDP officials told reporters they were happy with the current electoral result, saying it was very narrow. They noted that the 53 seats won by the SDP did not include those won by the Istrian Democratic Party, which currently has four seats, and that they also counted on the seats won by national minorities.

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