ZAGREB Croatia's prime minister said on Thursday he would propose four new ministers after municipal elections, at which his ruling conservatives hope to win enough support to improve their bargaining position.
The two rounds of municipal elections are scheduled for May 21 and June 4.
"I will present new ministers to the parliament after elections on the local level," Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told a cabinet session. At the moment, Croatia does not have ministers for internal affairs, the judiciary, public administration or energy and the environment.
The government was left without four ministers after Plenkovic split with his former coalition partner, the centre-right Most ("Bridge") party over a no-confidence vote concerning Finance Minister Zdravko Maric, who survived the vote last week by just one vote.
Plenkovic must now gain the support of least 76 deputies in the 151-seat parliament. If Plenkovic fails to win parliamentary approval for the new ministers, snap elections are virtually certain.
President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said last week, after meeting all the parliamentary groups, that most parties were against early elections, but none of the major parties publicly voiced support for Plenkovic's HDZ party.
That appears to leave Plenkovic dependent on talks with several independent deputies and representatives of national minorities.
"I think Plenkovic counts on good HDZ results in the municipal elections to boost his position and will focus on talks with several deputies individually. In any case, it would be a rather thin majority," said political analyst Ivan Rimac.
Analysts say snap elections would delay necessary reforms in one of the weakest European Union economies. Too small a parliamentary majority could also slow the reforms, they said.
In the latest opinion poll, the HDZ has the support of 31 percent of voters; the biggest opposition party, the Social Democrats, has 24 percent and Most, HDZ's former coalition partner, has 10.2 percent.
(Reporting by Igor Ilic, editing by Larry King)