Authoritarian Populism Index.

The Authoritarian Populism Index is developed by Timbro.

Timbro is the leading free market think tank in the Nordic countries. Our mission is to promote and disseminate ideas supporting the principles of free markets, free enterprise, individual liberty and a free society. Timbro was founded in 1978 by Sture Eskilsson and the Swedish Employers’ Association, a precursor to the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.  Since 2003, Timbro is financed by the Swedish Free Enterprise Foundation.


International outreach and translation supported by Friedrich Naumann Foundation and Atlas Network.


Populism Rank: 27


Voter support for radical left in last elections (2020): 0%.
Voter support for radical right in last elections: +8.3 %.
Populist or radical parties in government (February 2024): none
Number of radical or populist MEP:s (2019): 2/12.

01 Speakers

Croatian domestic politics has been dominated by one party since independence – The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). While HDZ has moderated its nationalist policies, the party has cooperated with extremists. In recent years, several discontented parties have also gained prominence.


HDZ was formed in 1990 while Croatia was still a republic in Yugoslavia. HDZ won the first free parliamentary elections in the same year, led Croatia during the civil war (1991-95) and continued to dominate the domestic political scene even in the post-war period. Croatian political discourse was and still is strongly coloured by nationalism and strong antagonisms between the Croatian majority and the remaining Serbian minority.

The death of President Franjo Tudjman in 1999 marked the beginning of a new phase in Croatian politics. The broad domestic consensus around the importance of EU membership and implementing necessary political, economic, and judicial reforms played a significant role in strengthening democracy, and from the turn of the millennium, Croatia began to meet the criteria for a full-fledged democracy. HDZ, which first lost power in 2000, initially opposed the centre-left government’s cooperation with the Hague tribunal, protesting against the extradition of Croatian citizens. Ivo Sanader, who succeeded Tudjman as party leader, emerged victorious from an internal power struggle and led the party in a new direction. In 2003, HDZ adopted new statutes emphasising that the party was based on democratic principles.

In the following decades, HDZ has transformed into a centre-right party and is now well integrated into the European conservative party family through its membership in the EPP. The party has received the largest share of votes in all but one of the elections since 2003. Despite its strong pro-EU stance, the HDZ still harbours a lot of nationalism, however. It has also cooperated with extremists. In 2016, Zlatko Hasanbegovic was appointed minister of culture. Hasabegovic is a far right extremist who has praised the fascist Ustasha regime, and spent his time in office cutting funding for independent media and pushing out allegedly left-leaning media managers from public television.

Franjo Tudjman

The other dominant party in Croatia is the SPD, with roots in the Croatian Communist Party. SPD is a centre-left social democratic party, part of S&D in the European Parliament. Both HDZ and SPD have formed alliances with a large number of smaller parties in the highly fragmented Croatian party system, but they have never formed a broad coalition together.


Two anti-establishment parties have been relatively successful. The Key to Croatia (ZZ, founded under the name “Human Shield”) is an anti-establishment party that made a breakthrough in the 2015 and 2016 elections. The party rejects classification in terms of left or right, and shares several similarities with Italy’s M5S. ZZ has combined a radical left-wing critique of capitalism (Ivan Sinčić, who came third in the presidential election in 2014 and in 2019 became MEP for the party, believes in abolishing private banks), with hard-line immigration opposition and progressive social policies, including being in favor of legalizing marijuana. In their early years, ZZ was advocating a ‘Croxit’, but later switched to a softer euro-skepticism. The party has also contributed to the spreading of conspiracy theories about chemtrails and vaccinations. 


For a party that initially had won success by attacking corruption in the country, it was a heavy blow when in 2019 it was revealed that ZZ also had been involved in several corruption scandals. The party has changed its name several times and was voted out of parliament in the 2020 election.

Ivan Sinčić.

Ahead of the 2020 parliamentary elections, a new national conservative party was formed: Miroslav Skoro’s Homeland Movement (DPMS). Skoro is an established folk singer who has released records since the 1990s. After a short political career in the HDZ in the 2000s, he returned to politics and came third in the 2019 presidential election. He then formed his own party, which finished third in the 2020 election. At the founding of the party, Skoro said that Croatia above all needs unity: “The wrong policies in the last 20 years have brought the country to the brink of ruin”. 


In the summer of 2021, Skoro left the leadership after a conflict over party funding, which led to a name change to DP. The party has since been led by Ivan Penava, former mayor of Vukovar, where he opposed minority rights for the Serbian minority, citing how badly the city suffered during the war. In 2023, Skoro ran for mayor i Zagreb as a candidate for DP.

Album cover for Miroslav Skoro’s record Milo Moje from 2003.

Some political scientists have classified DP as “far right” and compared them to Fidesz in Hungary. The DP has consistently prioritized culture war issues, targeting immigration and minority policies, particularly against the Serbian minority. In the 2019 presidential election, Skoro campaigned on the promise to pardon Tomislav Mercep, a former politician and paramilitary leader who was convicted for serious war crimes, including responsibility for the murder of 43 civilian Serbians that his unit committed.


The DP are also conservative on social issues, and campaigned in the 2020 elections on a total ban of abortions (which is not a unique position in Croatian politics, even candidates for HDZ and Most are strongly anti-abortion). On economic issues, the DP lean to the right: promising reduced bureaucracy, strict limits to the interference of politics in the economy and reduced number of regulations, but also free kindergartens. DP is softly euro-skeptic, in favor of membership in EU but against adopting the Euro.


In 2020, DP was part of an electoral alliance with a number of smaller parties. Notable among these is Sovereign Croatia (HS), a Christian and conservative party that was formed in 2019 and then merged with a number of other small parties. HS currently holds four seats in parliament. The coalition also included Bloc of Croatia (BzH), a motley group of right-wing radical parties, which has a seat in parliament. Since the election, six of the eleven DP parliamentarians have left the party for another party group in Croatia’s highly fragmented Sabor.


DP has grown in the void created to the right in the party system when HDZ moved towards the centre. Throughout the years of independence, there has been mobilization from, among others, the Catholic Church calling for a strong christian right.

EP elections

Number of authoritarian or populist MEP:s (2019): 2/12


In the first Croatian EP elections in 2013, the far right Croatian Party of Rights Dr Ante Sarcevic (HSP AS), a splinter from HSP, won one seat, thanks to its electoral alliance with HDZ and the popularity of its candidate: Ruža Tomašić. Tomašić has since been reelected both in 2014 and 2019 (as a candidate for her new party, the short lived conservative Croatian Conservative Party, HKS) and is a member of the ECR group. She has been noticed both for her work against crime and for recurring nationalist statements. In 2019, ZZ also won one seat, its MEP being a non-inscrit.

DP summary

Social issues: CONSERVATIVE
Democratic credibility: MEDIUM