Zagreb, Jul 5 (efe-epa).- Around 3.8 million Croatians were called to vote on Sunday in parliamentary elections as the country battled its highest rate of Covid-19 infections.
They will elect 151 MPs in a tight political contest between the governing conservatives and progressive opposition.
Polling stations opened at 7am local time and will close at 7pm when the first projections from the ballot boxes are expected.
It is set to be a close race between incumbent prime minister Andrej Plenkovic and his Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and Davor Bernardic, leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party.
Analysts believe that despite the narrow result the conservatives are more likely to remain in government because they have more options of reaching coalition agreements with other right-wing parties.
The elections took place amid the Balkan country’s worst rate of coronavirus infections, with almost 100 new cases and two deaths reported on Friday.
Croatia has not been as badly affected by the outbreak as other European countries, with just over 3,000 confirmed cases and 112 deaths.
Vesna Fabijancic-Krizanic, vice president of the State Electoral Commission (DIP), urged citizens to vote and guaranteed that polling stations had implemented preventive measures against Covid-19.
“Voters will be more protected at polling stations than at concerts, soccer games, shopping malls and other places they frequent,” she told Croatian news agency Hina.
The pandemic has triggered a debate around citizens’ voting rights.
The country’s State Electoral Commission was forced to change its rules on Friday after the Constitutional Court ruled that a decision to ban Covid-19 patients from taking part was illegal.
Those infected with the virus will be able to exercise their right in the elections by authorizing a trusted person to vote on their behalf.
People in quarantine were also able to vote if they had registered before Thursday when an electoral commission delegation visited them in their homes.
Analysts have predicted that the results will be tight and any post-election negotiations on the formation of a government are likely to be difficult.
HDZ was predicted to win 52 seats and center-left coalition Restart, led by Bernardic, could take 51, according to the latest poll by television broadcaster Nova.
The first official results are expected to be announced on Sunday evening. EFE-EPA