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Parliamentary representatives are seen in the parliament in Zagreb, Croatia May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

(reuters_tickers)

By Igor Ilic

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia's Finance Minister Zdravko Maric narrowly survived a no-confidence vote on Thursday but it remained unclear if conservative Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic could stave off an early election after the collapse of the governing coalition.

The opposition and Plenkovic's former coalition partner, the centre-right Most ("Bridge") party, mustered 75 votes against Maric, one short of the 76 needed in the 151-seat parliament.

Most quit the coalition last week after Plenkovic sacked its ministers for supporting the no-confidence motion in Maric. The prime minister now needs to seek support for four new ministers; he must also find allies to assemble a new majority, or seek support to continue as a minority government.

Failure would mean a new snap election, the second in less than a year, which would delay economic reforms needed to boost one of the weakest European Union economies.

Plenkovic's conservative HDZ party said it now wanted a vote to sack parliamentary speaker Bozo Petrov, the Most party leader. The HDZ last week gathered 79 lawmakers' signatures supporting that move.

Parliament is scheduled to break for several weeks from Friday, due to municipal elections on May 21.

The no-confidence motion against Maric was demanded due to his alleged conflict of interest and lack of credibility in handling a financial crisis at Croatia's biggest private firm, Agrokor, where he was a senior executive until early 2016 and where the government has appointed crisis managers.

(Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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