Croatians head to polls for 2nd time in 10 months

Croatia votes in a snap parliamentary election on Sunday, but it is unlikely to deliver strong leadership for a country facing chronic economic woes, rising tension with neighbouring Serbia and a potential resurgence of the refugee crisis.

"The result of this election could easily be an introduction into another election soon", said Kosor. The uncertainty is fueling fears of prolonged instability that could hamper reform.

Although more advanced than other Balkan countries, Croatia has one of the weakest economies in the European Union following years of crisis after the 1991-95 war fueled by the split from the former Yugoslavia. Growth of 2.5 percent expected this year is far short of the 4 percent growth that would be needed to make a dent on persistent low living standards, analysts say. However, unemployment hovers around 14 percent - among the highest in the European Union - and much of the fiscal growth is attributed to tourism along Croatia's Adriatic coast.

"A serious job is waiting for a serious government that is ready to tackle problems which should have been dealt with long ago", Deranja said.

There had been rows over political appointments, public administration reforms and a conflict of interest case. It formed a government with HDZ, but it didn't work well and the coalition government collapsed.

The more moderate leader, who took over from right-leaning Tomislav Karamarko earlier this summer, said Sunday he expects high turnout among Croatia's almost 3.8 million voters.

"The best advice in this situation would be just to take care of oneself and mind one's own business", he said.

Croatia is the European Union's newest member.

"With HDZ in power we have witnessed Croatia flirting with values that are inconceivable for a modern European country", Morana, who did not give her last name, ahead of the vote. "It is a huge change". With the Social Democrats, led by former Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, fighting to retake power, the close finish may trigger political horse trading and stall efforts to push through an economic overhaul to help the country of 4.2 million rebuild after a record recession ended in 2014. But, Milanovic too has played the nationalist card, meeting with the Croatian war veterans and clashing openly with Serbia.

In a sign of an aversion to a politics that has come to be dominated by populous gestures over recent months, Croats voted in smaller numbers than last time, and lent support to populist parties, like the leftist Zivi Zid ("Human Shield") party, which went from one seat to seven.

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