Croatian Political Science Review, (49)5: 69-88.

The Absent Socioeconomic Cleavage in Croatia: a Failure of Representative Democracy?

Dolenec, D.

This paper engages with the broader debate about the failures of representativedemocracy through a critical analysis of political cleavages in Croatiafrom 1991 until the present. Building on existing studies which repeatedlyshow that in Croatia political party competition is not structured along socioeconomiccleavages, I argue that a socioeconomic cleavage exists in society,but is not represented in the parliamentary arena. This hypothesis is backed upby data from the ISSP survey (2009), aggregate comparative data as well asan overview of existing studies. Available evidence points to growing socialstratification in society, while the citizens of Croatia are aware of socioeconomicinequalities, they exhibit egalitarian value orientations and their economicpreferences seem coherent when approached from a social class perspective.The second part of the paper formulates potential explanations forthis proposed mismatch between social dynamics and its representation in theparliamentary arena, ranging from the role of communist historical legaciesand the impact of nation-building and war in the 1990s, towards consideringthe way in which major political parties were influenced by European politicalparty families and the European integration process more broadly. Overall,the analysis suggests that in Croatia structural conditions are conducive to asocioeconomic cleavage, but that interests on their own cannot trigger collectivesocial action – effective representation must be fought for through politicalarticulation and mobilisation.

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© Danijela Dolenec 2023
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