Croatia's parliament elects new speaker ending deadlock

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ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Croatia's parliament chose a speaker on Monday, ending weeks of political deadlock after last month's inconclusive general election.

Lawmakers elected Zeljko Reiner of the conservative Croatian Democratic Union with 88 votes in favor, one against and 62 abstentions.

The country's Nov. 8 election was inconclusive, with opposition right-wing and ruling left-wing coalitions winning 59 and 56 seats respectively.

The newly formed Most party, which became kingmaker after winning 19 seats, decided after weeks of negotiations with both blocs to form a new government with the conservatives, ending a four-year rule of the center-left coalition.

The election of the speaker paves the way for the prime minister designate proposed by the conservatives, the little-known Canada-educated financial expert Tihomir Oreskovic, to form a new government.

"I'm a patriot and it is an honor for me to be able to return to Croatia and help my people," Oreskovic said, adding that he hopes to form the government within the next 30 days.

Outgoing Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, who was close to a deal with Most (Bridge in English) during the negotiations, was more pessimistic.

"Considering democracy, Croatia has never been at such a low point," Milanovic told reporters during in the parliament session.

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