Despite undoubtedly poor electoral showing, and despite joy felt by opponents, both from the right and radical left, SDP is still by far the largest and most important party of the left or centre-left in Croatia. This will remain the case, but changes are urgently needed.
The defeated leader, Davor Bernardić, has resigned (which should have happened much earlier). The party now needs restructuring, new ideas and new people at the helm. Such changes require elections within the party, which must take place no later than six months after general elections, according to the party rulebook.
SDP must not wait, regardless of the fact that some prominent members, for whatever reasons, wish to postpone internal elections. The party needs a new boss and new leadership as soon as possible. The next real test for SDP will be local elections, scheduled for May next year. This seems like a lot of time to turn things round, provided that the new leader is elected quickly and work begins on the ground.
Field work is extremely important, as Andrej Plenković showed during the election campaign. Ivo Jelušić, member of the party’s executive committee, has said that there is “a number of regions where SDP is not doing well”. This is a cause for concern, because such problems are not resolved overnight and can become long-term.
SDP should turn inwards for a while, the shorter the better, and then come back stronger. Everyone should act in unison, knowing that competing factions bring harm to the party. There is no need to copy anyone and no need to lurch further to the left, which is where the new Možemo coalition is to be found. Elections in Croatia are not won by moving ever more to the left (or indeed, to the right). And presumably, everyone within SDP is prudent enough to know that any flirtation with right-wing populists would be a disaster.
The solution is relatively and deceptively simple. The party should actively focus on ordinary people and their concerns, and electoral reward is almost certain to follow.