The first formal state in the area of modern day Croatia came when the Croats arrived in the 7th Century and formed two Duchy’s. The country was brought more closely together by King Tomislav who ruled from 910 to 928. From this point there were a series of rulers until 1102 when Croatia entered into a union with Hungary.
Over the next few centuries the Croatians were obliged to fight a series of invasions, most notably by the Venetians and then the Ottomans.
By 1830 the concept of Croat nationalism was growing and in 1868 Croatian autonomy was restored under the Croatian-Hungarian Settlement.
In 1918 the idea of a South Slavonic State had taken hold and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was established. This lasted until 1941 when the Germans invaded.
By 1945 the country had become part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under Marshall Josip Tito.
Tito went on to rule until his death in 1980. After this Yugoslavia started to crumble and in the spring of 1990 the Croatian communists had allowed multi-party elections to take place as well as the introduction of a new constitution.
In the 1990 elections Franjo Tuđman became the first democratically elected prime minister since 1945 and his Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won 55 of the 80 seats in the parliament.
By 1991 there were clashes between Croatian and Serbian forces and a low scale war of independence dragged on until 1995. In the May of 1991 the parliament voted for Independence and in a subsequent referendum 93.24% of the population supported the move.
On 25th June 1991 Croatia declared itself independent from Yugoslavia.
In 1992 fresh elections were held with the HDZ winning 85 of the 138 seats in the Hrvatski sabor. In that year there were also presidential elections which Franjo Tuđman won with 57.8% of the vote.
The HDZ repeated their success in 1995, taking 75 of the 125 seats in parliament and in 1997 Tuđman won again with 61.49% of the vote.
Tuđman died in 1999 and the loss of their leader was detrimental to the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). In the 2000 elections the Social Democratic Party (SDP) took a four party coalition to victory, winning 71 seats and forcing the HDZ into second place for the first time, with 46 seats.
The SDP built a larger coalition around them which guaranteed them a two thirds majority. This allowed them to change the constitution to a parliamentary system from the previous semi-presidential system. In the same year Stjepan Mesić of the Croatian People’s Party (HNS) became the new president.
In 2003 the HDZ were back and won 66 of the 151 seats. The new prime minister, Ivo Sanader was able to form a coalition. He repeated this success in 2007 when again the HDZ was able to build a coalition around it.
In 2005, Stjepan Mesić was re-elected as president in a second round runoff with 65.93% of the vote.
On 1st July 2009 things started to turn sour once more for the HDZ when Sanader resigned his position and was subsequently arrested on corruption charges. He was replaced as prime minister by Jadranka Kosor.
In 2010 Stjepan Mesić having completed his two terms stood down and Ivo Josipović of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) won in a second round runoff with 60.26% of the vote. The Sanader corruption charges were having their effect on the HDZ. By the time the government went into the 2011 election campaign there were mass rallies against widespread corruption, recession and economic malaise.
Meanwhile the main opposition Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP) had been busy forming a centre-left coalition known as the Kukuriku coalition with three other parties including the Croatian People’s Party – Liberal Democrats (HNS), Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS-DDI) and Croatian Party of Pensioners (HSU).
Inevitably Kukuriku won an outright majority in the 2011 election, winning 81 of the 153 seats in the Hrvatski sabor or parliament. HDZ and its allies lost 18 seats and were reduced to 47 seats. Just nineteen days after the election Zoran Milanović of the SDP announced his Cabinet.
Milanović’s government has had mixed results. They were able to steer the country into becoming the 28th member state of the European Union on 1st July 2013 but have continued to struggle with corruption and a worsening economy.
By late 2014 the government had disapproval ratings of around 80%. In the Presidential election which straddled 2014/2015 it was Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović of the centre-right HDZ who emerged victorious in the second round with 50.74% of the vote. She defeated incumbent President Ivo Josipović who was standing as an Independent but with SDP support and has set up a close electoral battleground for the next general election which must be held on or before 20th February 2016.
The President is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term.
The unicameral Assembly or Hrvatski sabor has 153 members elected from party lists by popular vote to serve four-year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Croatia at joint 55th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 49 (where 100 is least corrupt).