Walking out of parliament in protest against proceedings is a route, although not entirely unusual, taken rarely in the democratic world. The reasons for this are obvious and strong: when a matter dealt with by the parliament is against your convictions and principles you have the responsibility as a parliamentarian that the parliamentary records of voting on the matter do show that you were expressly against it, or on the side you say you’re on. The only parliamentary records are those that show the number of votes for, against and abstain. Walking out figures are not entered into the records, simply because those who walked out are not present and are not counted.
On Friday 28 June, 78 members of the ruling Social Democrats led coalition voted for the “Law on cooperation in criminal matters with members of EU”, while six opposition MPs were against – the Labour Party, the HDSSB party and independent MP Jadranka Kosor. The largest party in opposition, Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ, led by Tomislav Karamarko, walked out just prior to the casting of votes.
So, according to this law a EU arrest/extradition warrant will not be applicable to crimes committed before 7 August 2002. And, as I feared in my previous post on the matter, it protects particularly those who had engaged in murders and assassinations ordered and executed by the Yugoslav communist secret police, viz. the Communist Party.
The Croatian government (evidently red in colour and red in nature) is desperately trying to convince the Croatian people that this new version of the Law protects Croatian war veterans (1991 – 1995)! Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic’s latest spin on this vomit is a “scenario” where, say, someone from Serbia (not an EU member state) could turn up, say, in Paris and file an extradition request for someone in Croatia, for a crime they, say, allegedly committed in Croatia between 1991 and 1995! Why would France or any other country for that matter seek extradition of an alleged criminal for alleged crimes that did not occur in France is a question that deserves no response. The question is absurd and insulting of human intellect, let alone of jurisdiction and facts that tell the story of defending Croatia against aggression in early 1990’s.
Nope, the new law is all about protecting communist criminals who murdered innocent people across EU member countries during and after WWII.
Certainly the European Commission has apparently severely criticised this legislative move by the Croatian parliament and it’s to be expected that this will not be the end to this alarming story emanating from Croatia two days before it’s to officially join the EU. Furthermore, while Germany’s Angela Merkel has suddenly cancelled her attendance of celebrations in Zagreb to mark Croatia’s entry into the EU may not have anything to do with a possible protest against this new law, the tongues that wag on the streets would beg to differ.
Tomislav Karamarko described the parliamentary voting on this law as “uncivilised and non-European conduct, saying the government had embarrassed Croatia”. Karamarko further said Croatia must clear up what happened during communism and talk about the responsibility of the former Croatian Communist Alliance for those events.
“They are afraid of Josip Perkovic going before the German judiciary for the simple reason that he could talk about his superiors… We will soon see if there were criminal elements in the party succeeded by today’s SDP (Social Democratic Party), if there were elements of criminal activity among the people who perhaps are still their icons, and there will also be talk of Josip Broz Tito’s superior responsibility,” said Karamarko.
I agree with Karamarko on this, however, I cannot and I do not agree with him leading his parliamentary HDZ party colleagues out of the parliament when time came to vote for or against the new law. HDZ should have remained in the parliament and voted against the law! That way the numerical results from the voting would have had a strong “NO”, instead, it’s a pathetic “6 NOs”! That way the parliamentary records would show which side HDZ took in this matter. As things are there is no record of this because they had not voted and this very fact leaves an open slather to all sorts of speculations, including the ones that might say passing of this new law somehow suits HDZ?
Had HDZ appealed to the Speaker to defer voting on this new law, to remove it from the day’s agenda, to allow more time for discussions, then perhaps the walking out may be seen as a more positive protest. Walking out of parliament demonstrates not just disapproval, but also disrespect for the proposal of the majority party and the legitimacy of the proceedings. But this is only, I believe, in the case when the “walking out” party has first and explicitly appealed to the “House” that the vote proposal be removed from the agenda or adjourned. Criticising the proposal, as HDZ did, just prior to the vote, is simply not enough in this case – it represents rhetoric and parliamentary banter at best. Pleading for adjournment, and then walking out if adjournment not achieved, would have given the HDZ walkout much credibility. This way, it simply leaves it open, as I said above, to all sorts of unsavoury speculations, some of which are already visible in Croatian media. After all, HDZ did say that the proposed law presents a most serious issue for Croatia; not only regarding the need to process communist crimes but also vis-à-vis the embarrassment such rushed voting would bring to Croatia within the EU.
HDZ’s walking out of parliament on Friday has only given additional legs to the political theater evolving around communist crimes and, sadly, disregarding the victims of those crimes. The governing party throwing innuendo around about nameless persons from the HDZ and Church sides possibly carrying sins of communist crimes: “You chased a fox, and chased King Kong out,” Milanovic directed at HDZ.
Karamarko then replied that HDZ will chase King Kong out and see who had the subjective and command role in the murder of Croatians abroad.
By walking out of the parliament at voting time HDZ has in my view only provided fodder for further political games on the issue of not processing communist crimes. While their vote against the law would not have turned the results to a majority against vote, due to inadequate number of votes the largest opposition party has, it would have given the case against the law a much stronger footing. And, it would have given the victims of communist crimes the deserved consideration and voice.
This way, by walking out, HDZ had abdicated its responsibility and demonstrated a kind of unwillingness to engage in this particular legislative process. One cannot be against something and when the time to vote comes, walk out in what looks like a protest. One cannot also afford this particularly in Croatia where voter turnout is generally quite dismal and general or referendum elections. Parliamentarians must serve as role models in this for the general population and not behave in ways that cheapen and endanger the power of voting. It’s known that while the Social Democrats (SDP) were in opposition in Croatia they too had walked out of or not turned up for voting at times, so they have no credible grounds to criticise such a move by HDZ. However, citizens have every right to criticise it and harbor grave disappointment; citizens want it written in “black and white” (vote results records) as to who stood on which side when “push came to shove” and voting ensued. Walking out without voting in this case is simply another step backward in the proper (as opposed to street and media) processing of communist crimes. Simply awful! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)