Zoran Milanovic (L), leader of the Social Democrat Party (SDP) shakes hands with Andrej Plenkovic, the newly elected president of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), before a television debate in the campaign for elections at the Croatian Television (HRT) in Zagreb, capital of Croatia, Aug. 12, 2016. Croatia will hold an early parliamentary election on September 11. (Xinhua/Miso Lisanin)
ZAGREB, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- The leaders from Croatian two biggest parties on Friday held a televised debate in the campaign before the early election set for Sept. 11.
Zoran Milanovic, president of the main opposition Croatian Social Democratic Party (SDP), and Andrej Plenkovic, newly elected president of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), debated on the issues of economic growth, employment and debts.
Milanovic, former prime minister, said Croatia needed a stable government and a safe direction for economic development. He promised if in power his party would impose no new taxes and would strive to create more jobs for youth and invest more in education that would amount to 2 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
Plenkovic refuted Milanovic's idea of no new taxes, saying it was Milanovic who increased the value-added tax rate to 25 percent when he was the prime minister. He added HDZ would reduce the rate to 24 percent in second year of next government and by the end of the term to 23 percent. Meanwhile, the party would undertake the reform of the corporate and income taxes, he said.
Regarding debts, Milanovic said the previous HDZ government has left the government a huge budget deficit. He said it was during his term that Croatia for the first time ever had a positive balance of payments in the amount of two percent of the budget.
Plenkovic argued during Milanovic's term, public debt has drastically increased, saying HDZ would reduce the debts with economic growth and using state-owned assets.
When questioned on employment, both of them pledged to encourage job creation but gave no specific plans.
Regarding how to deal with a possible new migrant crisis, Plenkovic said he believed there would be no new migrant wave. He said the problem of protecting external borders has been solved at the European Union level.
While Milanovic said his government did quite well last year on the refugee issue. SDP would act same way if there would be a new wave of refugees, he said.
The debate, held at the Croatian Television (HRT), was the first televised debate in 13 years.
By now SDP has formed a coalition -- People's Coalition-- with the Croatian People's Party-Liberal Democrats, the Croatian Party of Pensioners and Croatian Peasant Party to run the election, while HDZ is heading towards the election without national coalition partners.
A latest poll has showed the two parties were neck to neck for the upcoming election, with the People's Coalition winning 29.2 percent of the votes and HDZ 28.3 percent.
Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic called an early election after HDZ-led government stepped down following a no-confidence vote in June after being in power for only five months.