Croatia: Election Debate Fizzer Spurs New Splinter Of Hope

Zoran Milanovic (L), Social Democrats/SDP Andrej Plenkovic (R), Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ

Zoran Milanovic (L), Social Democrats/SDP
Andrej Plenkovic (R), Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ


It was going to be the debate of a decade – Croatian media promised, building up high expectations and nail-biting anticipation for the televised debate held Friday 12 August 2016 between the leaders of the Croatian two biggest parties: Andrej Plenkovic/ HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union and Zoran Milanovic/SDP/Social Democratic Party. It was going to be the debate that would shift voters from either camp into the other and end the misery of the two parties seemingly being neck to neck for the upcoming election. It was going to be a hard debate on the issues of economic growth, employment and debts; highlighting the answers. Alas – a debate it was but one conducted between two seemingly personal friends who do not want to step on each other’s toes. No room for that in politics of a country riddled with all sorts of crises – political, economic, and ideological, if you ask me.

Walking away from this debate one could not shake off the nasty feeling that the coming ballot might not end the political deadlock, which usually ends in a minority government. A large number of undecided voters will be the key but if Croatia gets another hung parliament the likely kingmaker would once again be the reformist Most party, or Bridge, which despite numerous new independent smaller coalitions appearing like mushrooms after the rain, now has the support of about 10% of voters. Most/Bridge has proven to be a destructive force rather than the one capable of building and fortifying bridges into stable government.

Croatia needs decisive reforms to fix its fragile public finances, significantly improve the investment climate, spur bold growth and reduce public debt now standing at 86% of GDP. While we know from his last performance as Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic has no chance whatsoever in achieving these priority goals for Croatia, even with the political bubble-and-squeak coalitions he has concocted, it is at the same time difficult to ascertain from his seemingly measured, polite and controlled appearance last Friday whether Andrej Plenkovic of HDZ has got the skills and the oomph to make the outcomes for those goals happen for Croatia.

Milanovic, former prime minister of a government that almost ruined completely the economy, said Croatia needed a stable government and a safe direction for economic development. Milanovic has gathered around his SDP a coalition of all-shades-of-red and many a ranting political lunatics (including himself and the former president Stjepan Mesic who is re-entering politics out of furious revenge against conservative HDZ, who had in recent months cut his cushy benefits as former President) that can only announce to Croatia not stability but a meal of political bubble-and-squeak bound to turn Croatia into a state of fatal indigestion that blocks any progress of anything and in particular democratic ideology. 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% of the country’s gross domestic product.

Plenkovic refuted Milanovic’s idea of no new taxes, saying it was Milanovic who increased the value-added tax rate (Good and services tax) to 25% when he was the Prime Minister. He added HDZ would reduce the rate to 24% in second year of next government and by the end of the term to 23%. Meanwhile, the party would undertake the reform of the corporate and income taxes, he said.
So, both promised to lower the tax burden for citizens and businesses. But, 2017 is looking like a particularly challenging year financially; Croatia will need almost 30 billion Kuna (US$4.5 billion/4 billion Euro) just for refinancing bonds and interest payments.

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 2% 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.


All in all, it appeared to me like in that fable: the mountain was roaring in labour, it thundered but in the end a mouse was born. The debate provided the audience with few barely superficial answers to pressing thundering crucial questions relating to the economic growth, unemployment and national debt even if the prelude did promise earth-shattering outcome from the debate and point the voters to a saviour new government.

The debate appeared more about who had performed the worst as government of the past: SDP or HDZ! Little was said about real and realistic solutions for the future that would help undecided voters make up their minds or, indeed, supporters of either jump ship and decide to support the other party. The TV host did try to provoke gently or prod the speakers so as to make the debate spring to life, be more spirited and stronger, even called the debate a conflict at one stage, which was fiercely negated by the two speakers, the debate was a right old fizzer.

The speakers left the impression that as far as any disagreements they may have on the important issues these were neither fundamental nor substantial, if at all existing.

Pero Barbaric Pepi (L) General Zeljko Glasnovic (C) ILija Cvitanovic (R)

Pero Barbaric Pepi (L)
General Zeljko Glasnovic (C)
Ilija Cvitanovic (R)

No wonder that almost immediately after this fizzer of a debate, which left the voter no clearer as to the direction Croatia must take in bettering its living standards and democratic processes, a leading HDZ politician, member of Croatian Parliament representing the diaspora, General Zeljko Glasnovic, made his final decision to abandon HDZ and file Saturday 13 August with the electoral commission his own ticket of independent candidatures for the diaspora (Croats living abroad) electorate. His rather surprising move appears to have echoed positively particularly there where it counts for him: among Croats abroad. Indeed, it was the Croats abroad without whom the creation of the modern independent state of Croatia would not have been possible. So while Friday’s debate between SDP and HDZ suggested much of what Croatia fought for had recklessly been watered down General Glasnovic’s move injected new hope for a strong and focused future. His motives to go separate ways from HDZ are attached to his vision about what according to him is best for Croatia, for Croatian diaspora, for Croats living in Bosnia and Herzegovina and for the Croatian Homeland War veterans.

As member of parliament Glasnovic championed and persisted with the need for Croatia to impose lustration and rid its key public administration and corporations of former communists – rid itself of elements that work against investments, business developments and cause mass emigration of young people who have no or very little prospects for gainful employment in Croatia.

Primarily, it was my conscience that moved me to this. I cannot and I do not want to be a ‘fig leaf’ for interest groups nor just another mute on the parliamentary benches,” said General Glasnovic in his press release Saturday 13 August regarding his bold move to split from HDZ.
If we want to survive as a nation we must set priority political goals… A quarter of a century has passed since the Homeland War and Croatia has still not successfully integrated its human and other available resources.
Why is Croatia remaining to be a dysfunctional state?
Interest groups whose primary interest lies in self-interest and not in the building of a functional and modern Croatian state have led Croatia for too long…
It’s scandalous that a Croat born outside Croatia needs about 3 years to receive Croatian citizenship. It’s also scandalous that people who have been destroying the Croatian state for decades still sit on the benches of our parliament and are present in all bodies of the government. Retroactive laws, which were supposed to reckon with business crime, war profiteering and with betrayal of national interests had never made it to the parliamentary proceedings. Academic and human resources lustration remain taboo topics in our society.
Without the establishment of a new value system Croatia will never experience a catharsis…”

And I couldn’t agree more – without a new value system that rejects and destroys every single and all spores of the former communist regime (or at least moves into a true return to the one announced in the speeches dr Franjo Tudjman delivered in 1990/1991), Croatia will forever struggle to complete the goals of full freedom and democracy it set out to achieve in 1990/1991 – democracy and prosperity. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Maybe General Glasnovic’s words will ring true with the voters and bring about a new democratic era starting with the lustration of all the bad elements still hanging round in the Croatian Parliament and the administration and holding the Country back.
    He has to make sure his message is carried throughout the country and heard by everyone right up until the election is due. Even if he can’t win the election it may be that he can hold the balance of power and elicit changes in a coalition.
    Croatia will have it’s day even if it isn’t just yet.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • True, David – he needs to keep saying his message, I have no doubt he will scoop up the diaspora votes aplenty – that is one of 11 electorates but a very important one as far as might is concerned especially the diaspora in the Western world, which he knows very well having served not only the Croatian army as veteran but also Canadian as well as the French Foreign Legion – so he knows a thing or two about combat on political fields but the most important thing about him is his direction and persistence. Hugs hugs back 🙂

  2. Seems the 2 major parties there are similar to here in Australia..blame the previous government for the current situation and then blame the opposition for achieving nothing during the sitting parliament..General Glasnovic seems to have identified the issues plaguing Croatia and wants to fix what the others know is detrimental to their being..I hope his vote will influence positive changes for the future of the nation and its children

  3. Ones a communist criminal and the other, is his good friend. These elections in Croatia are a joke. Nothing will change. Croatia needs a civil war to get rid of this criminal communist organisation and it’s offspring. Let’s start in Varaždin and work our way down to Istra through Zagreb. Let’s depose the enemies of the state. ZDS

    • Momentum for lustration building up Simic – slowly but still there. Patience will get Croatia places when it comes to rooting out that communist evil.

  4. Valentin P says:

    From Facebook: What sets Glasnovic apart from the rest of the circus is he is a TRUE patriot and he has Croatia’s best interests at heart. In other words he’s not in it for himself. I think he will succeed in garnering significant support from diaspora and veterans because most of us are totally fed up with the status quo as he points out. It will be interesting to see what transpires. At least he is fighting the good fight.

    • And the important thing Valentin P is that supporters and public knows that he is true to his word and will represent the people not the chair he sits on like the rest

  5. Why was Milanovic allowed to spread lies during the debate? Why was he not more vigorously called to task on his lying and deception. Milanovic and the SDP record is one of failure and deception. Any politician/debater worth his salt could have brought down Milanovic during the debate…take the kid gloves off. Again, what a waste of time…Croatia does that alot, waste time.

  6. Thanks for you visit and LIKE ! 🙂

  7. isnt it common knowledge that Zoran Milanovic is a serb???

    • I think the common knowledge is that he is pro_Serbia/Yugoslavia Ivan and while never having fought for Croatian freedom and democracy he is first to fight to get benefits and perks from it. Awful stuff, really

      • i just heard from alot of people that he is serbian, does sound more of a serbian name than croatian really so wouldnt surprise me.

        hard to see how he could be voted in with rumours like that floating around

      • Could be especially as a lot of Serbs born and living in Croatia still don’t consider themselves as being Croatian Serbs but Serbia Serbs. Ah well,freedom is freedom as long as law is followed

  8. I recently got my rješenje just 11 months after applying for citizenship – did not take 3 years thankfully!

    By the way your old blog post on citizenship ( and the comments section were an invaluable help in navigating the process so, hvala Ina!

  9. Having come back recently,there is a open anti Diaspora feeling from some Croatian’s, its like “we created this mess” Sander etc. There is a fundamental flaw in Croatian society, understanding the meaning of right / wrong and hard work. Have you heard this before “ne isplati se”? Quick to point out other countries/peoples flaws but not to look at their own. The same people (anti communist/Farmers/poor and the educated) are leaving Croatia for the same reason my family fled back in the 60’s. With these new supermarkets Croatian farmers cannot compete, it’s devastated them. Young adults cannot get a job, unless, you have a “veza”, don’t need to know anything just a Veza. Our General will have a hard time in these elections, have no mistake, as he wants to change this lawless society, which is the UDBA/Communists pay packet. These guys are no real communists, they just want political power, to have free access to the money. Yes, that makes the criminals with degrees. Our General will have a hard time, his been through it before and we can only wish him well. ZDS

    • Many say what you say Marijan and I have certainly experienced plenty of instances where people can’t get a job without a connection/ “veza” these tails from communist era are hard to get rid of; heck even to see a specialist doctor of note one needs connections and yes many have plenty to say about diaspora but I reckon it’s the bitterness of their own incapacity and failures that bring this – coffee shops are not full all day long with hard workers… but all in all we shall persist and General Glasnovic will also, I’m sure. It’s hard to change old habits tied to the communist mentality that the state owes one a living

  10. Great – you have two buddies being nicey nice, and we have two haters throwing mudballs…. isn’t politics fun

    • At time, rather often, the madness gets too much to bear, Helena – and I start thinking about taking time out somewhere where politics don’t even get a mention, some isolated place would be nice for a good while I reckon

  11. Hope is a good power word… Let’s hope it rings true. 😊

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