Zagreb, Jun 16 (AFP) Croatia's government fell today after Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic lost a confidence vote in parliament, in a serious blow to the country's nationalist rulers after only five months in power.
The vote will delay planned reforms in the European Union's newest member, whose economy -- which only last year emerged from a six-year recession -- remains one of EU's weakest.
Cobbled together after indecisive November polls, the fragile coalition has been beset by internal disputes, amid concerns over Croatia's shift to the right.
Speaker Zeljko Reiner said that of those present 125 deputies in the 151-member parliament backed the no confidence motion while 15 were against and two abstained.
If a new government is not formed within 30 days, parliament will be dissolved and the president will call snap elections.
Oreskovic, a former pharmaceutical executive with no party affiliation, came to power pledging to undertake badly-needed economic reforms.
"Initially we all arrived with a common goal to get the economy going," Oreskovic, 50, told reporters after the vote voicing regret over its outcome.
The political crisis, deepened by constant squabbling between the main HDZ party and its junior partner, Most, escalated last month with a conflict of interest affair involving Tomislav Karamarko, the powerful HDZ head and deputy premier.
Most demanded his resignation, while the prime minister called for both Karamarko and Most leader Bozo Petrov -- another deputy premier -- to quit as the coalition descended into chaos.
Oreskovic also rejected a call by HDZ for his own resignation, and the party filed the no confidence motion shortly after, accusing the premier of trying to boost his own political power, instead of dealing with economy.
But, Oreskovic rejected the accusations, saying the motion was tabled as a result of "interests of individuals" -- meaning Karamarko.
"I tried to prevent that. That's my only guilt," he told lawmakers. Considered a key figure in government, Karamarko stepped down on Wednesday saying the government's "disfunction is unsustainable".
His resignation came just hours after a national ethnics watchdog ruled he had a conflict of interest due to a business deal between his wife and a lobbyist for Hungary's oil group MOL. MOL is currently in arbitration with Croatia over its national oil group INA, where it is a major shareholder.