HNS currently has 7 representatives in the Croatian Parliament and are the third largest political party in Croatia and fourth in the number of representatives if the coalitions are included. The party is a member of Liberal International and the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party. After Vesna Pusić resigned HNS is led by Radimir Čačić.
The People's Party was originally formed in the 19th century during the period of Croatian romantic nationalism. Because it was formed as part of the Illyrian Movement which did not distinguish Croats from other South Slavs and instead called them all Illyrians, the party was named the Illyrian people's party (Ilirska narodna stranka) when it was formed in late 1841. Some of its champions from this time included Janko Drašković, Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski, Josip Juraj Strossmayer and Ivan Mažuranić.
In 1861, the People's Party deputies in the Croatian Parliament went under the name People's Liberal Party (Narodna liberalna stranka).
It remained a powerful party until 1905, when the People's Party joined the Croatian-Serbian Coalition (Hrvatsko-srpska koalicija), together with the Party of Rights, as well as the Independents and the Radicals. After World War I, the Coalition ceased to exist and the People's Party was not reformed.
The modern Croatian People's Party was formed in late 1990 by members of the Coalition of People's Accord (Koalicija narodnog sporazuma) which had participated on the first multi-party election of 1990, led by Savka Dabčević-Kučar, Miko Tripalo and others.
The HNS remained a small opposition party. In the 1992 election they won 6.7% of the vote and attained 6 seats in the Croatian Parliament. In 1994, construction entrepreneur Radimir Čačić became party chairman. In the 1995 election they won 2 seats as part of an election alliance.
In the January 2000 election they formed a four-party coalition with HSS, LS and IDS, which together won 25 seats in the Parliament, two of whom were HNS representatives. As a result, the party participated in the 2000–2003 government of Ivica Račan through the minister of public works, construction and reconstruction Radimir Čačić. A few weeks later, the coalition's candidate and HNS member Stjepan Mesić was elected President of the Republic.
Also in 2000, HNS elected a new party chair, sociologist Vesna Pusić. In the November 2003 elections, their alliance with the Alliance of Primorje-Gorski Kotar and the Slavonia-Baranja Croatian Party won 8.0 % of the vote and 11 out of 151 seats, 10 of them HNS representatives. However, despite significantly improved results, the party moved to the opposition.
A second element of today's People's Party, the Party of Liberal Democrats or Libra, originated in time of the Račan government when Dražen Budiša, the leader of the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS), pulled out of the coalition. Several members of Budiša's party refused to bring down the government and instead split from the HSLS, forming Libra. On February 6, 2005, most of the 1,250 representatives of HNS on its seventh convention voted to merge with the Party of Liberal Democrats (Libra) as the Croatian People's Party – Liberal Democrats. Libra had won 3 seats in the previous election, so the total number of seats for the party increased to 13.
In April 2008 Radimir Čačić was elected party chair once again.