Croatian citizens will elect their first European Parliament members in April.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Zagreb -- 18/03/13
Croatians will head to the polls next month. [AFP]
Croatia is getting ready to head to the polls to elect its first members to the European Parliament.
The 12 members of parliament elected on April 14th will hold their seats until regular European Parliamentary elections in spring 2014, when new members will be elected in all the EU-member countries.
Croatia President Ivo Josipovic said that the April elections are crucial.
"Our citizens will be [for the] first time electing representatives for the European Parliament. These elections have a great symbolical importance," Josipovic told a press conference earlier this month.
The State Election Commission said everything is ready for the elections.
"Parties must submit their election lists no later than March 18th. Citizens of other EU countries with an established residence in Croatia will also have the right to vote," Zdravka Cufar Saric, vice president of the commission, told SETimes.
She added that for the first time, citizens will vote for "open lists," choosing an individual candidate from the list.
Croatian citizens, as well as citizens of other Balkan countries, currently vote in a "closed list" fashion, where a vote is for an entire party's list of candidates.
Analysts expect that Croatia will introduce the EU parliamentary voting system in its domestic electoral system in the future.
"This is important for the future reform of the electoral system in Croatia, since the state can now harmonise the national electoral system with the one in the EU," Davor Djenero, a professor at the Zagreb faculty of political sciences, told SETimes.
Many are showing interest in the election.
"Politicians say that we'll be able to vote for a particular individual, which is better than to vote for some party. Besides, these people will represent us in Europe. We must choose the best," Mate Zgonjanin, 40, from Split, told SETimes.
However, analysts said the government failed to inform citizens about the significance of the EU parliamentary elections.
"Citizens found out about the elections only a few months ago. They will not have enough time to learn about the competencies of the European Parliament and the role of its MEPs …. If there's a poor turnout, it may send a message that people aren't interested in this election," Dragan Zelic, director of Zagreb-based GONG NGO, told SETimes.
About 4.5 million people have the right to vote in Croatia.