Europe

Croatia's finance minister survives no-confidence vote

Croatia's finance minister narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in parliament on Thursday, amid deepening political turmoil in the European Union's newest nation.

The vote in the 151-seat assembly saw 75 lawmakers back the ouster of Finance Minister Zdravko Maric, 75 were against the move and one lawmaker abstained.

The deadlock meant Maric could remain in his post. But it showed that the center-right government has no majority support in the assembly.

The opposition charges that Maric has a conflict of interest because he was a senior executive in a debt-stricken Croatian private retail giant, Agrokor, which the government is now trying to bail out.

Thursday's vote was seen as a test for Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic after a junior partner left his ruling coalition, triggering a government crisis that could lead to another early election.

Plenkovic said he was satisfied that the no-confidence initiative against his minister "was defeated."

"This was an inappropriate and baseless attempt to destabilize the Croatian institutions," Plenkovic said.

The previous coalition of Plenkovic's Croatian Democratic Union and the conservative Most (Bridge) group collapsed in June after six months, leading to an early vote in September.

In an apparent retaliatory move against the former coalition partner, the Croatian Democratic Union called for the removal of the Most leader, Bozo Petrov, from his parliament speaker post.

Petrov resigned as speaker Thursday, hours before the proposed vote.

"The only solution to the crisis is holding new parliamentary election," Petrov told parliament after stepping down.

Since joining the EU in 2013 as its 28th member, Croatia has been struggling with economic problems and leadership crises.