Croatia: In The Quandary Of Voting For A “Lesser of Two Evils”

Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic (L) Zoran Milanovic (R)Photo: Pixsell

Voting is a matter of morality. It cannot be done without considering others as well as our own self. Voting often involves agonising moral trade-offs, agonising over the need to suppress one’s own political, ideological, economic ideals if one is to vote for one and not for the other. Decision to abstain from voting also is a moral matter that takes away the burden of complicity in the wrongdoing or wrong outcomes driven by the candidate we voted for because he/she is seen as a lesser evil than the other.

Hundreds of thousands of Croatia’s voters, who voted for Miroslav Skoro in the first round of Presidential elections, appear to be finding that if they vote in the second round they will need to vote for “a lesser of two evils”. The first round of Presidential election on 22 December has produced the result by which former and by many accounts ineffective Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic (Social Democrat, former communist, “left wing”) and Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic (current “right wing”  HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union backed incumbent whose work in her first mandate has bitterly disappointed multitudes and, hence, led to an unusually swift spiral rise [but not to the heights that would get him across the line] of her “right-wing” opponent Miroslav Skoro, who in his campaign asked HDZ voters to defect from HDZ and join him but, conspicuously, failed to ask the same of the Social Democrat Party/SDP members!) are set for an electoral duel on 5 January 2020, when the second and final round of these presidential elections are on. Those who are appalled by both the former communist left-wing echelons (backing Milanovic) and those appalled by the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ right-wing echelons in government and who are backing Grabar Kitarovic are evidently now on edge to see which way Skoro voters will go on 5 January. In fact blatant calls for their vote are seeping through the media and political campaigns. Many of the so-called Skoro voters are now describing themselves, particularly in social media, as being placed in the situation of having to vote for a lesser of two evils and find themselves venting their agony and bitterness in public.

I guess, moral philosophy can help with the answers to problems of this kind. It can be permissible to vote for the lesser evil. But, without exception, if one does so, there is moral “small print” to follow. This, especially when it comes to how one acts afterwards towards those whom one’s vote has disregarded or who was judged as a bigger evil. No doubt, opting for the lesser evil leaves a moral residue. One can’t just make a choice and move on as if all is OK. It’s not OK. Morally one feels one has compromised oneself, and one’s real choice – one feels cheated and incomplete and, to a great extent morally and politically unclean. When voting for the lesser of two evils one feels the loss of power of conviction and heartfelt dedication.

“If Hitler were to invade Hell, I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.” — Winston Churchill. In Churchill’s estimation, Stalin was less evil than Hitler. Hence, the Allied Forces’ friendship with the Soviets: a marriage of convenience formed in Hell. Can it then be said that the Allied forces by the act of alliance with communist Stalin carry on their shoulders the heavy burden of the consequence of such alliance, which consequence saw the millions of victims of communist crimes denied the respect and acknowledgement they deserve?

A significant multitude of Croatian voters (over 400,000 voters at least, who voted for Skoro – and this in terms of the size of the Croatian electorate is a significant number) are now faced with the so-called lesser of two evils dilemma. Both Presidential candidates are evidently seen by them as lousy, in essence unacceptable and damaging to the Croatian national state and the values it fought for during the 1990’s Homeland War  and, yet, they are made to feel that they are bound to vote in the January 2020 second round of elections; they’re frequently told that if they don’t vote they can’t complain! What a quandary to be in.  On the other hand, the more politically adventurous (and perhaps brave) will say that free people get to complain whether they vote or not. After all, both the government and presidential offices are paid for largely from the taxpayer money and complaining can actually be quite cathartic, even clear the way for new political inroads, a third option as many in a two-party predominance would say.

Presidency is deeply personal, because the role is ubiquitous; the president is or is seen as he/she should be the leader, the father/the mother, the spiritual leader of a nation with a defined destiny. Hence, given the quandary Croatian voters find themselves in, while some will vote for what (who) they perceive as the lesser evil, I think that many will not turn out for voting on 5 January because the ballot paper does not include “None of the above” option (the preference they morally chose at the first round on 22 December).

As in many countries, in Croatia there is no legal duty to vote. One turns out to vote because one feels or knows that their vote does make a difference when a candidate for election actually represents that moral value, that national value and track record for which they themselves stand. But whether one is reasonable in choosing to vote for the lesser of the two evils, is not the same as being legally, duty-bound to vote.

In the Christian tradition and Western morality, it cannot really be said that “lesser of the two evils” is a moral doctrine, even if it does sound a lot like the doctrine (or principle) of double effect. The doctrine of double effect is often invoked to explain the permissibility of an action that causes a serious harm, such as the death of a human being, as a side effect of promoting some good end. According to the principle of double effect, sometimes it is permissible to cause a harm as a side effect (or “double effect”) of bringing about a good result even though it would not be permissible to cause such a harm as a means to bringing about the same good end. Even St Thomas Aquinas set forth the doctrine of double effect as permissible under the above “rules” so it is no wonder that Christians in Croatia may find themselves in a quandary as the one they are in at this stage of presidential elections run; some may feel that it is permissible to vote for a lesser of the two evils. Most, however, will find it an impossible task to see that any good is likely to come out from their vote for a lesser of the two evils. The candidates’ track record is their objective measuring stick, and it simply does not stack up to much.

And while I can’t speak for everyone, I know Christians are not exactly given the green light to “choose” any kind of evil. If one does choose it is entirely a burden upon their own personal morality.

Then one often comes across the worn-out argument that not voting constitutes a dereliction of one’s duty towards the common good. But experience tells us that common good is not always advanced by voting.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “catch-22” perhaps it can also be explained this way: Say the president of the country you belong to tells lies or defends both the good and the bad politics of the past. He or she says things that are demonstrably impossible to understand or believe. A lot.

Now say you’re an ethical person who does not tolerate lies or double standards well. All this lying is a problem. All the double standards are a problem. Control of the media is a problem for you – it reports the lies and the double standards and even attempts to provide some objective facts to back this up, make it look credible.

The more the media report the lies, the more the president lies. And if you didn’t report the lies, he/she would say his/her lies are true because nobody reported them as lies.

And so, observing the rhetoric, the calls for votes in the second round of voting, the calls to change one’s initial and first preference for a president when his/her candidate has not made it in the first round, the calls to switch loyalty because one or the other presidents will, if elected, be a disaster, the dilemma, the anger expressed by multitudes of Croatian voters in the past week one can conclude that the system and political undercurrents in Croatia have produced two undesirable candidates for great many, either of which will advance an ultra vires agenda in office. Can it then truly be said that anyone (who is dissatisfied with both candidates) has a moral duty to pick one of them? Ina Vukic



  1. Once again Udba killers will be protected from any form of prosecution for at least another 5 years. Milanovic would sell out Croatia in a second to assure a new YU is created while Katarovic continues to build her resume for her own self interest and will continue to forget how important it is to keep our young in Croatia from leaving. The Balkan mentality is a sickness !

    • And one wonders, Dalmo, what will it take to cure such an illness…new ways? New blood? or does one need to reach the bottom before one can climb up again? Certainly, very interesting times but as long as there are many who vie for change there is hope yet

  2. Dear Ina, As l read todays post l am watching a film called Androcles and the Lion about Christians and their true belief in what they believe and why they are sacrificed to ‘ please Rome ‘ a senate exists in so many leaderships today and they are no better than the handful of Gold that they will have in the end. ……These leaders must come as brother must fight brother and then eventually ‘ The Meek Will Inherit The Earth ‘ but first we must not lead with all that is in our heads …but with LOVE in our ❤️ so which leader will people vote …ask 10 people this question and you will have your answer as 9 will vote for what they WANT not the one that will vote for what others NEED as with all your posts will add later …Be safe Ina prays for you, your country and citizens who still need help and guidance to see the light Amen 🙏’s

  3. CroatianPride says:

    The Western UN troops were gang raping Croat and Bosniak women in Sarajevo inside the Serb rape camps, exposed by the washingtonpost, in fact to this day according to the women that was raped even the Canadian General took part. How much this article shocks you Ina ? You probably thought you had heard everything from the war right ? what makes this so sad is that those Western troops were actually meant to protect the girls of Bosnia not gang rape them together with the Serbs. This is really sick the bottom of the bottom no wonder this people were not helping us no they were raping our girls !! sick animals a sad quote from the article ” U.N. peace keepers in Bosnia regularly visited a Serb-run brothel outside Sarajevo, where some of them took sexual advantage of Muslim and Croat women forced into prostitution, according to Muslim witnesses and the local Serb commander. ”

    Here is another horrific quote

    ” Rifat Durak, 37, a Muslim policeman from Vogosca, said he had been cutting wood when U.N. vehicles drove up in the early evening. “I was about 10 to 15 yards {away}. . . . The doors opened at the back. The soldiers got out. They were in complete UNPROFOR {U.N. Protection Force} uniforms.”

    He said they remained inside for about 90 minutes. “Then four or five girls left with them. They were beautiful girls, ages 20 to 25.” Durak said he knew one. “She was a Croat. From her reaction, I could see that she was scared and not going willingly.”

  4. Hi Ina, love the Churchill quote.

  5. Happy New Year, INA ! 🙂

  6. Election and voting is such an important part of the relationship between citizen and the country. Many times we take it for granted without realizing every vote count and we the people make the difference by raising our voice where it matters.This is the time of year to reflect on the times gone by and the time to come, and wishing a great year ahead with good health and happiness.

    Wishing you Ina a wonderful 2020 Happy New Year!!!
    Signing Off 2019 from wondering “Makeup & Breakup.”

  7. I was faced with a situation recently of voting for a party I did not actually want, in the hope of ousting another party. But, under the first-past-the-post voting system in the UK, it does not matter who I actually vote for, I am only voting in principle, because my vote has no effect.

  8. Your posts are always very clear and informative!
    My best to you and Happy New Year!

  9. Splithead says:

    Dear Ina,
    Lets be honest, all eleven candidates were from the left of politics, there was no choice.

    Croatia has shown its inability to carry out a fair election process. each candidate required 10,000 signatures to be in the race, yet on voting day three of them struggled to obtain 4,00 votes.

    Who’s signatures were they? No investigation, unlike the two referendums. No governance required.

    The media is being instructed by the old guard.
    Corruption on every level marches on. Jobs/Money for votes.
    Candidates are not being asked to answer “Real” questions.
    The EU is turning a blind eye, while its henchmen are doing their bidding.
    Two invalid referendum processes.

    The supposed last two candidates in this manufactured process were always going to be in this position.

    Meanwhile we have a former corrupt PM who 10 years on, has not seen a jail cell.

    Smell the roses Ina, there never was choice.

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