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Croatian conservative leader Plenkovic becomes PM-designate

FILE - This is a Monday, Sept. 12, 2016 file photo of Andrej Plenkovic, front left, leader of center-right HDZ party as he celebrates elections results at the party's headquarters in Zagreb, Croatia. Croatia's president on Monday Oct. 10, 2016 appointed conservative leader Andrej Plenkovic as prime minister-designate after his party and a small populist group agreed to form a coalition government in a bid to end months of political instability in the EU's newest member state. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic, File)
October 10, 2016 - 6:05 AM

ZAGREB, Croatia - Croatia's president on Monday appointed conservative leader Andrej Plenkovic as prime minister-designate after his party and a small populist group agreed to form a coalition government in a bid to end months of political instability in the EU's newest member state.

President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic urged Croatian Democratic Union leader Plenkovic to form his Cabinet as soon as possible after the period of turmoil that was triggered by the fall of the previous government in June.

"We all want the new government to be stable, constructive and efficient," Grabar Kitarovic said. "I believe we are entering a new phase of political life ... when we will start dealing with important existential issues."

A snap election on Sept. 11 produced no clear winner and there have been fears that the new government would take months to form and still end up being as unstable as the last one, which fell apart after less than six months in office.

The previous government was also made up of the Croatian Democratic Union, or HDZ, and the populist Most, but the conservatives then had a different, right-leaning leader who faced allegations of conflict of interest.

Plenkovic, who was a member of the European Parliament, is considered to be a moderate conservative. He has sought to calm political tensions and relatively quickly forged a deal with Most and other small and minority groups.

The 46-year-old said his new government will have the support of 91 lawmakers in the 151-member parliament. He said the new government will focus on economic reform, creating new jobs and building stable institutions.

Croatia remains one of the weakest economies in the EU, despite some signs of growth stemming from the 2013 entry into the 28-member bloc. The country fought a war in 1991-95 after declaring independence from Yugoslavia.

The Croatian Parliament convenes for the first time later this week and the government could be approved next week.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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