Coalitions, commissioners and election sandwiches: the European elections in Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia

With the European Parliament election campaign hotting up across the continent, we take a snapshot of the situation in Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia.

Blogpost compiled with the support of Chapter 4, Burson-Marsteller’s exclusive affiliate in South East and Central and Eastern Europe. 


Plenary session week 3 2014 - Hercule III programme and protection of the European Union's financial interests

The European election in Croatia will be a crucial examination for the ruling left-wing coalition, led by the Social Democrats (SDP).

The government has just entered the second half of its mandate and has faced several scandals, often clumsily handled. The SDP has suffered its worst opinion poll scores in several years and there have been internal clashes.

While the election will be a test of credibility for the ruling party, it is also a chance to test the strength of the main opponent, the centre-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ – a member of the European People’s Party), which is still dogged by memories of corruption scandals from its long period in power.

Given the troubles for the two main parties, an opportunity opens for several other groups to position themselves. Dozens of new parties that have been founded in the last twelve months will face their first test.

See our list of European Parliament election candidates in Croatia

The SDP and HDZ are both running in the election at the head of a coalition (the HDZ is leading the right-wing Union for Croatia, whose list includes Ruža Tomašić (pictured), an MEP from the European Conservatives and Reformists Group).

Last year’s inaugural European election in Croatia saw a scramble for positions on the lists, with the posts in Brussels being seen as prestigious and lucrative – a common statute for MEPs means that Croatian members are paid vastly more than parliamentarians in Zagreb. This year will see a repeat.

However, one Social Democrat who is likely to stand in the election will almost certainly not take up his seat: the current Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Neven Mimica, is likely to be Croatia’s nominee to the European Commission for the second time.

See our list of potential nominees to the European Commission from Croatia

On 19 March Croatian president Ivo Josipović announced that the elections will be held on 25 May, expressing his wish that all parties talk about the possibilities Croatia has as an EU member.

Viktor Orbán, on the left, and José Manuel Barroso

Few people in Hungary are discussing the European elections, with a general election due to take place in less than three weeks’ time.

Indeed, the European poll is part of an ‘election sandwich’, with municipal elections due to take place in the autumn.

See our list of European Parliament election candidates in Hungary

At the moment, the centre-right government of Viktor Orbán (pictured) is set to win a big majority in the new Hungarian parliament. His party, Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Union, is set to win half of all votes, with the centre-left Unity coalition, featuring the Socialists, at around 25%. The extreme-right Jobbik – Movement for a Better Hungary party is currently set to win around 15% of the vote.

The new electoral system will see one round of voting, a parliament that is almost halved in size, and a greater emphasis on constituency seats rather than party lists. There is a threshold for entry into parliament of five per cent for single parties; more for combined lists.

After the national elections, the parties will start to focus on Europe; indeed, Fidesz is due to publish its list of candidates only after the election. One potentially interesting development is the high score for Jobbik in the opinion polls, especially given that European Parliament elections see a surge in support for fringe parties.

Hungary’s nominee to the European Commission is likely to come from Fidesz if the party, as expected, wins the national election. The likely nominee is also set to head the party’s list for the European Parliament election.

See our list of potential nominees to the European Commission from Hungary

Names being mooted are Enikő Győri, the Europe minister and face of the country’s EU presidency in 2011. She has excellent European and international credentials, speaks many languages, and would probably pass the hearing in the Parliament without much difficulty.

Other contenders include the justice minister, Tibor Navracsics, and current MEP József Szájer, who has been in the Parliament since Hungary joined the EU and has worked mainly on constitutional issues.

Janez Potocnik at the EU Hope ConferenceWith just over three months to go to the elections, the political situation in Slovenia is beginning to clarify a little.

On the centre-right, New Slovenia (NSi) and the Slovenian People’s Party (SLS) – both affiliated to the EPP – will run a common list, with Alojz Peterle MEP among the candidates. As for the other EPP-affiliated party, the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), Romana Jordan is set to stand down, but Milan Zver is likely to run again.

The Social Democrats will probably field Tanja Fajon and Mojca Kleva Kekuš – both currently MEPs. But there is also speculation that the party’s President, Igor Lukšič will lead the list. The order of these candidates could be crucial with Positive Slovenia (PS), a party established since the last European election but which now leads the government, likely to compete strongly for seats.

See our list of European Parliament election candidates in Slovenia

PS will join the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group, where Jelko Kacin MEP of Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) and Ivo Vajgl MEP of Zares – Social Liberals currently sit. However, due to the very low public support for LDS Kacin may lose his seat, while Vajgl is now backed by the Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia (DeSUS) – a centrist party focused on rights of older people.

As for the nominee to the European Commission, Janez Potočnik (pictured), who will not stand in the election, will try to get the government’s support but may face a battle to stay on for a third term (even if it would help secure a more important portfolio for the country’s nominee). In Slovenia, unlike in many other countries, the government has to approve the nomination, not just the prime minister.

See our list of potential nominees to the European Commission from Slovenia