Croatia: Political Parties, Corruption And Deadly Ricochet

Are the scales of justice in Croatia still red?

Are the scales of justice in Croatia still red?

Former Croatian prime minister dr Ivo Sanader and his former political party (Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ) were found guilty on Tuesday 11 March in a Zagreb court of rigging public tenders and abusing and siphoning off state funds in the biggest corruption trial to date in Croatia. The trial had lasted over two years and, in the sense of demonstrating that Croatia was serious about fighting corruption, it certainly pumped positive strides in Croatia’s accession into EU membership in July 2013.
The Zagreb county court gave Sanader, already sentenced to 10 years’ jail in another corruption trial in 2012, a new nine-year sentence. The HDZ, now in opposition, was ordered to pay back about 29 million kuna ($5.26 million).
Reading her verdict, Judge Ivana Calic said Sanader and four other people had conspired to secure illegal funding for the HDZ from public firms from 2003 to 2009, when Sanader quit the government without explanation.
He was later expelled from the party and fled the country but was arrested in Austria and sent home for trial.
The judge said he had used his authority to mastermind a scheme to divert money from public firms to make illegal financial gains both for the party and for himself.
They were elected to enforce the law, not to break it,” judge Ivana Calic said in her judgment and by pronouncing that HDZ as political party was guilty of corruption she pointed a finger at each and every single person of a 200,000 HDZ membership establishment!
How extraordinary!
Legal professionals in Croatia say that the case against HDZ has no base in law, if it had that would mean only one thing “literally, that would effectuate an attack against the state, the lawmakers have already made a distinction the moment they decided on and allowed a legal entity to be brought to an accused bench. Never in Europe since 1945 to today has there been such an attack against a political party, there are 5 criminal cases against Silvio Berlusconi (in Italy) but it has never crossed anyone’s mind to bring his political party to an accused bench – that would be an attack on democracy,” said for Croatian news Zeljko Olujic, a distinguished lawyer and a former State attorney of Croatia.
Tomislav Karamarko, president of HDZ, commented on this judgment saying: “Never, not ever will we accept a collective guilt or responsibility. The individuals who had committed crimes must carry the responsibility for that. No one can call all the members of the party guilty,  HDZ members are innocent people…”. Karamarko was adamant that what this court process against individuals that attached HDZ as an accused party to the proceedings is nothing more than demonisation of HDZ by the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which holds power in government and which ha never distanced itself from the communist party.
Sanader and HDZ officials both say they will appeal the verdict.

Backtracking a bit, the corruption charges leveled against Sanader and a handful of other HDZ officials were a key factor in HDZ’s loss of government in December 2011 general elections. However, under the new leader, Tomislav Karamarko, HDZ has worked hard to distance the party from the individuals being tried for corruption, clear the party’s name and to avoid a potentially disastrous consequence in which every single member of the HDZ would be tarnished with the paint of corruption despite his/her innocence.

New EU Parliament elections are due in May this year and these verdicts of corruption are likely to go against HDZ’s candidates unless what Karamarko believes will happen, actually happens: HDZ membership will actually grow stronger, become more united than ever and grow in number because that would seem to be a realistic expectation from someone wrongly accused and wrongly convicted.  Indeed, it is ludicrous to even imagine that 200,000 innocent people, proud members of HDZ movement that created the democratic and independent Croatia, will idly sit by and not fight back. It is ludicrous that the HDZ that created this modern Croatia will sit back and allow itself to be totally obliterated by the party SDP (formerly known as the League of Croatian Communists), which walked out of Croatia’s parliament in protest when voting for independent Croatia (secession from former communist Yugoslavia) was held in June 1991.  This, of course, is not to say that all guilty individuals from HDZ who are proven to have committed acts of corruption should not be punished.

At first sight the convictions against Sanader and his HDZ colleagues might seem to be a godsend for the current centre-left coalition headed by the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and if the joinder of HDZ as party to these proceedings was politically arranged and plotted, then SDP will be gasping for mercy!

For there is no doubt in my mind that somewhere in this case, when under the SDP government HDZ was joined as a party in the court case against Sanader and four other persons, stands the evil plot to further the communist’s cause to degrade and criminalise the democracy Franjo Tudjman started with HDZ in 1989.

SDP has been struggling to turn around the Croatian economy that has been in recession since 2009 and whose evident incompetence has brought the country on its knees with almost 400,000 unemployed  (in the country of 4.3 million total population) under a veil of suspect and corrupt allegations in privatisation, almost 80,000 working but without receiving a wage – the incompetence list grows longer every day.

SDP has not been spared from corruption scandals over the past two years since they have been in government, which scandals truly call into question its own political and otherwise ethics. To name only two examples: mass sackings of people and replacing them with the politically ideal ones who are loyal to SDP and Marina Lovric Merzel, the SDP prefect of the Sisak-Moslavina county in central Croatia, is currently under investigation by the anti-corruption police on the back of allegations that she has misused public funds to pay for private parties for her family and friends and to purchase expensive gifts for herself and political supporters…

The trial, which pronounced HDZ guilty of corruption – pending an Appeal – may indeed ricochet and serve to badly hurt SDP’s electoral chances in the upcoming European elections, as the disillusioned and disappointed Croatian electorate may act upon a conviction that the SDP is just as corrupt as the HDZ. The chances for untainted political parties not aligned, not in coalition with either HDZ or SDP, could, therefore, easily find a fruitful ground sooner than imagined. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. It’s ridiculous to charge a political party. Obviously a move by a junior level judge, who’s political alliance is now apparent, to do as much damage to the opposition as is possible before the EU elections and to thwart any early push by HDZ for general elections in Croatia.

    This will get knocked down at appeal….and SDP knows it; otherwise it would come back to bite them in the bum when their turn comes to purge the corruption from their own party.

    Sanader and all his cronies, on the other hand, deserve everything they get and more!

  2. The ricochet could be unsettling for some. It is possible though that the current regime is counting on voter apathy. The more radical wing of Texas Democrats benefited from apathy in the recent “primary” elections here. If as many as 40 to 50% of the voters in the Rio Grande Valley had turned out, the results would have completely gone against them. As it was, only 10% showed at the polls. We’ll see in the fall how the ricochet works here. It will be interesting

    • Things are already happening that suggest movements of a ricochet trajectory like people renewing their HDZ membership etc David B

  3. Reblogged this on cristina capodaglio.

  4. Ante Saric says:

    I have just read in a Croatian newspaper that the head of the SDP in the parliament said that the HDZ should be wind up. In short this person wants to turn Croatia into a one-party state to be governed by ex-communists.
    His statement is an absolute disgrace and should be condemned by all freedom loving people everywhere.
    I see he does not want to wind up the re-established Croatian Communist Party despite its unbelievable record of theft, murder and the expulsion of Croats to all parts of the world.
    It is just unbelievable what is happening in that country at the moment. It seems to me the country and its people have now lost touch with reality. They simply can’t cope with the rigours of the modern world. With democracy, with a market economy, and with individual responsibility.
    The 40 odd years of communism and Josip Broz Tito has permanently damaged them. Hence the current descent into madness.
    It is amazing that Croatians have succeeded all over the world but in Croatia proper itself they lurch from one crisis to another.
    After the war there should have been a Grand Coalition and together with say the IMF to begin to implement structural reforms to bring Croatia into the modern world.
    Of course none of this was done for a variety of reasons and now the country is bankrupt politically, financially and morally. What an absolute mess.

    • The statement made by the SDP parliamentarian proves my point Ante Saric – plotting by SDP to cut the feet of democracy may well be afoot

    • Great comments…completely agree. What an embarrassment for Croatia. We bicker and sabotage with political stupidity and selfishness, while Croatia sinks deeper into despair. Communism and Socialism have failed…when will our political elites realize this and finally abandon this irrational obsession. Croatia first. This is so sad and maddening.

    • This is certainly very frightening and I urge everyone in Croatia to make it known how against it they are. Condemn his words and make it loud and clear. If the SDP can make their illogical, anti-Croatian statements and fascist scare-mongering so loud, the opposition needs to be loud too.

      I disagree that Croats are permanently damaged. The problem is that since Tudjman, they’ve been lead by politicians who have not taken any action to actually improve the country. There has not been any movement to educate people about living in a democratic nation precisely because the leaders have never wanted a democratic nation with a small government, as that would mean giving up their power and their legacy of oppression, corruption, etc. People know what they want. They know how they want to live their life without government interference. The trouble is, they are lost and they do not know how to achieve this, especially when they see continual setbacks and when these setbacks are so scarily similar to what they suffered under the Yugoslavia regime.

      Strong, freedom loving leaders are needed in order for progress to once again start going.

      • therealamericro says:

        You hit the nail on the head Kat.

        Every single government since Tudman has been at best spineless, useless, and incompetent.

        National interests – both short and long term – strategic interests, strategic development (the only strategic project was the highway, which was started under Tudman, and derided by Yugoslav socialist-nationalist SDP as wasteful) and everything that every government should be concerned with was not and is not a concern of Croatia’s post-2000 farcial governments.

        The reason – they were all bought and paid for by foreign centers of power using sham NGO fronts and bought and paid for local ‘Croatian’ “journalists.”

        Sanader was one of them. He created the unfree media propaganda leviathan called EPH – which this government deemed too big to fail and bailed out in a massive conflict of interest.

        The treasonous, cleptocratic character of this government was best demonstrated with the open, shameless, public robbery of Croatian citizens in the Croatia Osiguranje deal, which of course the regime’s bought and paid for EPH media spun as the “deal of the century,” not calling it for what it was – the crime of the century.

  5. So very sad~

    • It certainly is Cindy on all counts: it’s sad that there are individuals who impoverished the state through siphoning wealth for themselves via corruption and fraud and its sad that hundreds of innocent people are vilified with them – a political party as a whole is not to blame for acts of a few – not in a democracy, that’s the deed of totalitarianism

      • Hrvojehrc says:

        I admire your strong will and effort Ina,thank you for showing us that we are not forgotten in the eyes of Croatian people in Australia. However, i am glad that they were sentenced. They deserved it. HDZ disappeared when Tuđman died,and corruption spread amongst them fast. I assure you that politicians in Croatia are nothing more than criminals ( regardless on their political beliefs ). Croatian people didn’t deserve this after everything,and it is a matter of time when will people of Croatia stand against them. It is late now,but “better now than never”. Croat’s are tired, they used it. I participated in war,even though i was twelve at the time (near Vukovar). It is hard to live in this injustice after everything we been through. Unfortunately,that war goes on even today. I assure you that end of their greed and immorality is near. HDZ,SDP etc… all the same thing,i beg of you who live outside of HR not to support HDZ ,SDP(or any political party)because they will smooth talk you,just that they could take money and votes from you. I am thankful for your support and hope you wont stop with your work. Hard times are waiting for us,but ones this has to stop. All the luck to you… (sry if my English is bad,haven’t used it for long time)

      • Thank you Hrvojehrc, your English is just fine and a credit to you. This diaspora can relate well to the political climate and disappointment you speak of. I do wish to say that nobody took the money from us, we were gladly donating funds to help Croatia in its most difficult time in Croatia for independence but yes there were individuals who thieved some of that money, while the bulk went where it was supposed to go – Karma will catch up with the thieves sooner or later, if not the law – that is written in the Good Book.

  6. Wonderful post Ina! This is absolutely insane – how can a whole political party be charged of something? I think this judge may have jumped on the ‘hdz haters’ wagon …

  7. Reblogged this on idealisticrebel and commented:
    I feel this is an important court decision.

  8. Reblogged this on SherayxWeblog.

  9. I think corruption has encompassed the globe.

    • Oh yes Jackie but it seems to have been very prevalent in former communist countries who are still resistant to tackle it at all levels.

  10. Ina the biggest issue with this is that no matter how they are sliced both parties are made up of form yugoslav communists who would sell out their own mother to save their skin, and the fact that one communist corruption has power isn’t surprising, though what surprises me and makes me sad to think about it is that the people don’t try to pass any lustration or anything that would ban anyone with communist connections whether they were the kids of a partizan or were in the yugoslav communist party, these people don’t care about us especially in diaspora and try to attack us while wanting our support to carry out their political hi jinx and bs.

    • I agree Jure but the diaspora remains proud that homeland did need and want it when the Homeland War raged and if it wasn’t for the diaspora Croatia as independent state would not have won the war. After 15 years of attacks and lies against the diaspora led by communist Stjepan Mesic from Croatia the tide is slowly turning, they are saying that connection between Croatia and diaspora must be re-established etc etc but this time around I think the diaspora will have its own conditions for that and the first condition to my thinking is a big apology from the government and the office of the president. Otherwise the diaspora is happy I think to maintain private ties with family in Croatia as it always has done and the state of Croatia it helped create is a legacy of pride even though its politicians are largely incompetent and democratically illiterate

  11. Ante Saric says:

    The SDP politician who said that the HDZ party should be expunged from political life in Croatia is Nenad Stazic.
    In Australia he would be best described as a party whip. So he is no ordinary backbencher making rash statements in the heat of battle. He is the head of SDP parliamentarians.
    Quite amazing that while his boss is visiting two of the oldest running democracies in the world (ie Australia and NZ) his minions at home are calling for its demise.
    I am a bit of political junkie and love to read about the politics of other countries. However, I have never heard or read such utterances in any other country. That a party is to be disbanded because of corruption.
    The LDP of Japan is one of the most corrupt parties in history but they ruled Japan for 50 years and turned the country into an economic superpower.
    Corruption is not the cause of Croatia’s problems. It is a symptom of a larger problem. That is failing to come clean on the crimes of communism and subsequent failure to implement structural reforms in a timely fashion.

    • If Nenad Stazic is the equivalent to parliamentary Whip for SDP, Ante Saric, he is in urgent need of attending courses about the role; the Whip’s main function in parliament is to ensure discipline and attendance of his party members of parliament, particularly when voting is on etc But we are talking here of SDP who seem to think they can do or say anything including calling for the extinguishing of a whole parliamentary party that is the main party in opposition because of a guilty verdict of corruption that has NOT even had it’s due process via court Appeal. That’s the democracy and the rule of law SDP in government stand for! Absolutely atrocious and horrible – Croatia has no chance of true democracy while such idiots are in power. Let alone the issue of whether a whole political party can be held accountable for the corrupt of a couple of its former members! Thank you on your comment

  12. Please accept “Being a light in the World Award”
    If you don’t accept awards please pass this to a friend who does.

    More love, less hate

  13. At first i though, yaay, a fellow Croatian… And then I got sad really fast. Well, I know it is a blog and in no way we can be objective but this is so screaming: “I’m a part of the HDZ and stuff the SDP” that it hurts. 🙁

    Shame. The article is good otherwise, but such subjectivity and obvious party preference discouraged me to read any further. You say seek truth when it is so obvious that you have your truth already seen and written. One dimension.

    Tko te plaća za promociju? (Who is paying you for the promotion?)

    • This is truly a sad comment, ivyon! It basically means that your blog is not objective and to be discarded as rubbish. This blog “Croatia, the War, and the Future” puts out the facts and then adds an opinion and opinion is an opinion but that does not take away from the objectivity of facts. And if you believe that an opinion which says that a whole political party cannot be held responsible for the corruption of few is wrong then indeed you have little to say about justice. In this case it’s not a matter of supporting or not a political party, it’s a matter of pure justice and how the court ruling may affect the future electoral climate in Croatia. Take it or leave it – the future will tell all!

      • Now you know how I felt. I have a strong feeling that you don’t live here… I have left more comments on the War post… I believe that the past has to be remembered, but you are talking about current events in a way that is degrading the party now leading, and praising HDZ and Franjo Tuđman, the man who is dead for 15 years! That all tells me that you are more than bias. You are a member of HDZ.

        Yes, I believe that the whole party of HDZ is guilty. Guilty as for choosing this joke of a polititian as their leader. Not legally guilty, that is not possible – so don’t feel guilty. 😉
        And Karamarko…man, his name makes me laugh! He is an innocent as the moon is black!

      • I do not know from where yo draw your “strength” to say that I am a member of HDZ. That is pure evil coming from your end. I am not a member of any political party nor have I been a member of any for over 20 years. However, I as any other person living in a democracy can have and express opinions about political parties and their work, but then again, it’s quite possible that you stem from a family of communist past and so freedom of expression might be something you do not like. I do and always will cherish Franjo Tudjman as a creator of independent Croatia and the democracy he started will only be as perfect as people let it.

      • I am sorry if I have offended you, so you tried to offend me with “communist family” No, I do not have a “communist family” 😀 My mom is Croatian born and my dad is Bosnian Croatian living here for the past 30+ years…

      • It is not an insult ivyon to protect the right to an opinion

      • I don’t understand this. I said I’m sorry if I have offended you with assuming that you are in or deeply sympatize HDZ, which is visible in your posts.

      • Again, ivyon, you stick to your guns in trying to say that there should be no freedom of political persuasion. That is wrong – in a true democracy it’s illegal to discriminate on basis of political persuasion. But my comments regarding HDZ have nothing to do with supporting HDZ as the party but rather commenting on the court judgment which found the whole party guilty of corruption on basis of actions by a few. To my view this is wrong. I accept your apology and you stand corrected – I am not a member of HDZ or any other party but I have every right on commenting about a political party.

      • No need to teach me what a true democracy is… I know what it is and I approve it more than a lot of people.
        I did appologise for thinking that you are a member of HDZ party, but you can’t really blame me. Why I thought that:
        1. You knew by heart how many members the party has. I even don’t know that.
        2. You were calling members of other parties bad names; Milanović was “Communist Wolf” (with a picture of Ustachka flag which shocked me), Vesna Pusić has a big words on her image saying “Sack this vandal”… You may be using bad words and insulting politicians for greater reasons, but then I didn’t see any for the members of HDZ. Nobody deserves to be called names, but hate to break it to you, HDZ party has become a laughing matter in public. (I have facts and sources to prove this) So it was strange not to see a reflection of the reality in your posts and I thought you were bias and I still think that.
        3. “In Croatia, I have it from reliable sources the streets are filled with people scared to say anything about the government in fear of reprisals and retaliation such as their job being in jeopardy etc.” That is not true. Although people fear of losing their jobs, they are really loud in expressing their opinion about the politics and current government.
        4. Praising the opposition when the post is about current government: “and it’s to be noted that the former (Croatian Democratic Government (HDZ) was instrumental in this, while the current government continued with the trend, although evidently not with the same resolve.”
        Can you see now why I thought you were a member of party?
        You said something bad about our president Josipović I can’t find it now… Do you know who was our other choice? No Google now…

        I am in no way defending our current leading party but the fact is that most of things the HDZ members did, did come out in public when they were no longer leading. They couldn’t hush it. A lot of affairs broke to the day light, it is much needed clense and I hope it will continue. Corruption and nepotism which you fight against was discovered and sanctionised. Even now, the facts about SDP being socially intolerante and buying expensive cars in this current no money situation is being discovered. Less things can be hided, and I can see that we have more democracy now then we had when the party with democracy in their name was the leading one.
        I am openly commenting on what you wrote and making conclusion not based on “my guns” but you see on what. Your words. That is it.

      • No ivyon I cannot nor can anyone see how you saw that I was member of HDZ when I am not, the only reason comes to mind is that you practice what you preach against. Sorry but the number of members of HDZ around 200,000 was actually stated on public Croatian TV news program just before I wrote the post; Vesna Pusic is a vandal of truth – as far as I am concerned and I have explained why in the post… Zoran Milanovic reminds me of a “Communist Wolf in Sheep’s Skin” on account of his actions and deeds in politics. Yes people in Croatia are scared to say anything against the government in fear of losing their job or someone from their family losing it etc – you are one source that says this is not true and my sources are not you. My post did not say “all “the people in the streets but that streets are filled with those people which in essence means many

      • And I do not think it is rubbish, otherwise I would have a deep breath and continue my journey surfing the interwebs, I just think that you need to check and check and check your facts. And please, try not to give an opinion on such a serious matter, because you are doing what you said Milošević was doing… Promoting your opinion in the world. Use your opinion, for sure, but in another post.

      • I do check facts and indeed anyone reading my posts can verify those independently. That is one of the reasons why my blog has credibility. As to my opinion or anyone’s opinion, for that matter – opinions are usually not far from facts and indeed that is a fundamental right in a democracy, which you don’t seem to understand nor want, just like it was in communist Yugoslavia and knowing the human damage such orientation can bring I will keep on recording my opinions and people are free to agree or disagree – in every case I will know that I do make a difference for the betterment of democracy

      • The funny things is that you have got me completely wrong. 😀 How you have a right for your own opinion, I have the right on my own… You see things from different perspective than me, who is “more right” we will never know… For e. I think that religion has no place in politics. I am also a religious person. That is the case with my comments, you assumed I am not liberal or tolerant because I expressed opinion different than yours… But, I don’t have a blog about politics and historical events. You should more than anyone be open for a debate, because politics is a debate, the one without it is not a democracy.

      • But your comment was not an opinion it purported to establish that I am member of HDZ, which I am not and that is wrong. As I said opinion is an opinion and checking of facts and future developments related to matter one has an opinion on are the ones that make opinions stand up as either good or not so good. While religion has no place in politics one fact remains: laws in a democracy were created on the basis of faith, whether Christian or not and they are changed in accordance with the needs that arise in a society. Croatia like most democracies is a secular state but that does not mean that the Church or believers have no say in politics because governing a nation stems from politics.


  1. Vice president Biden

    Croatia: Political Parties, Corruption And Deadly Ricochet – Croatia, the War, and the Future

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