Croatian Democratic Union

Published 24th November, 2011

The Croatian Democratic Union or HDZ was founded in 1989 in opposition to the then communist regime by Franjo Tuđman and other nationalist dissidents. The party describes itself as centre right and believes in Christian democracy, conservatism and pro-Europeanism.

The HDZ took part in the first multi-party elections which took place in two rounds in April and May 1990. They were instantly successful, taking 55 of the 80 seats in the new Social Political Council of the Socialist Republic of Croatia. The result was a shock for the communists and it led to widespread defections to the HDZ, allowing them to push forward their democratic agenda.

Although Croatia was still battling with the Milosevic Serbian regime, further elections took place in 1992 when the country elected its first president. Franjo Tuđman won with 57.8% of the vote and his closest rival was a full 35% behind.

In 1992 there was also a second general election, the first under a new constitution and again the HDZ did well, taking 44.68% of the vote and 85 of the 138 seats in the new parliament of Croatia or Hrvatski Sabor.

The HDZ won again in 1995 with 75 of the 127 seats in the new parliament. Franjo Tuđman also won his second presidential election in 1997, taking 61.4% of the vote.

On 10th December 1999 Franjo Tuđman died following a long fight against cancer. The effect on his party was devastating and in the 2000 elections they came second to a Social Democratic Party coalition, taking 46 of the 151 seats in the Hrvatski Sabor. In the presidential elections in the same year their candidate, Mate Granić, only managed to come third with 22.6% of the vote.

The defeats of 2000 led to an exodus of party members and Ivo Sanader was left to restore the party to its former glory.

Their fortunes did improve and by 2003 they were the largest party once more when they won 66 of the 151 seats in parliament. Although they were not able to go it alone, they were able to form a coalition and Ivo Sanader became prime minister.

In 2005, the party’s presidential candidate, Jadranka Kosor , was not able to win, but did come second with 34.07% of the vote.

In 2007 won once more with 43.1% of the vote and 66 out of a possible 153 seats. Sanader was back as prime minister, but in July 1999 he suddenly resigned and was subsequently arrested on corruption charges. The party was in trouble once more and Jadranka Kosor took over as party leader and prime minister.

In the 2010 presidential election the HDZ candidate, Andrija Hebrang, came third with 12.04% of the vote amidst allegations of more widespread corruption.

The Croatian Democratic Union is a member of the International Democrat Union (IDU) and Centrist Democrat International (CDI) as well as being affiliated to the European People’s Party (EPP).

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