Croatia: The Hypocrisy Of Mockery

In the rather prolonged wake of a rancorous presidential election in Croatia, late 2019, a few months of mute, largely ambivalent, anticipation as to what kind of president Zoran Milanovic will be have given rise to an ugly, tumultuous political swamp where the national interests are drowned in fear for the future as personal and political insults between the President and the Prime Minister (Andrej Plenkovic) fly like nothing I’ve seen before. It appears the two are in some kind of mud-slinging, mocking and insult competition that is difficult and sad to watch but one would not be wrong in saying: they fool no one!

Both have not cut their umbilical cords from communist Yugoslavia and its mindset no matter how hard they might try to assassinate each other’s character and authority.

The deterioration of Croatian top-end politics and lack of positive political discourse is dangerous to the health of the Croatian nation, of the independent and democratic Republic. No good arises when people in top positions of the same country identify more with a political self than as a citizen, or a leader in a country they are a part of. 

I take issue with the politics of divisiveness which, by definition and function, fractures the Croatian society through disinformation, deception, hypocrisy, mockery, insult slinging and outright lies and at all times paying mere lip-service to the foundations of the 1990’s Homeland War that ushered in independence and democracy while still embracing in deed and mentality the oppressive symbols and mindset of the criminal communist Yugoslavia regime.

Croatia was a country that should have cut its umbilical cord from communist Yugoslavia way back in 1991 when it declared secession from it by a sweeping 94% vote. The umbilical cord tore away gradually during the 1990’s as tens of thousands of people lost their life in the war of Serb/communist Yugoslavia aggression; hundreds of thousands Croats and non-Serbs – ethnically cleansed. Then, in 2000, the year after President Franjo Tudjman’s death, former communists (who did not want independent Croatia, who did not fight for it) returned at the helm of Croatia with a vengeance. 

When he was named Prime Minister in 2011, Zoran Milanovic was the leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and perceived by many as a promising politician, free of the corruption plaguing the rival conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party. But Milanovic’a government failed to implement much-needed reforms, perpetuating widespread patronage of corruption and poor economic trends. His SDP lost power following 2015 elections and Milanovic stepped down as party chief after he failed again in the following year’s snap vote. In his 2019 Presidential campaign, he promised to make Croatia a “normal, decent” liberal democracy, with an equal society and independent judiciary. He defeated HDZ’s candidate, former President Kolinda Granbar Kitarovic and Patriotic Movement’s Miroslav Skoro.

Andrej Plenkovic as Prime Minister did not have good relations with Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, in fact there was a great deal of animosity for a number of years of her mandate and the two were at each other’s proverbial throats much of the time. Grabar Kitarovic had said on several occasions that she had not been able to achieve a working relationship with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and used that as an excuse for not influencing needed reforms in national focus. Had she not sprung from a communist family background perhaps she would have tried harder to establish or force a working relationship so that Croatia could move along with needed reforms and national strategy that would see the crippling corruption weeded out (?).

It’s happening in Croatia again – Andrej Plenkovic has clearly demonstrated that he does not want to work with the new President Zoran Milanovic, either. One must contemplate upon possible motives for that, none of which appear to have Croatia’s national interests (attending to fixing the disastrously failing economy and paralysing corruption, for example) at heart.

The very public rows, public name-calling, mocking and public insults against each other between the two came out of nowhere, or it seems like that to most. Jaws dropped and befuddlement spread contagiously. The media was and is all over it; one does not know whether to laugh or cry. But, one does and must ask: why!?

Generally, in democracies, the public draws distinctions when it comes to the types of speech and behavior they deem acceptable from elected officials. Wide majorities in developed democracies say it is acceptable for elected officials to call their opponent uninformed on the issues and to raise their voice in a debate, but there is much lower tolerance for officials personally mocking or insulting their opponents.

And so, the Prime Minister and the President have not stopped attacking each other, mocking and insulting each other for weeks now. Both of them held press conferences on 23rd October 2020 – first Milanovic, who told Plenkovic that he avoided military service using a false medical diagnosis, and then, about an hour later Plenkovic said that ” a difficult defeat complex in the 2016 elections can be seen in Milanovic.”

The ugly showdown between the two continued.

Zoran Milanovic: “Hundreds of bitterns came under my window at the time when Plenkovic was building his five-penny career. My wife and my children could not leave the apartment, but he grew on that humus and manure.”

Andrej Plenkovic: ” A difficult defeat complex from the 2016 elections is again seen in him, his tone towards me is belittling, and he told a series of lies about me and my career, as well as about our relations.”

Milanovic: “Plenković was a protégé in all regimes. Based on a false diagnosis of anemia, Plenkovic avoided military service. The children of communist leaders could not avoid it (military service), only the privileged could do so.

Plenkovic: “The claim that I am the second generation of the red bourgeoisie, and that I was exempted from military service because of that… Articles about it in the media were not accidental, someone reported it to the media, I guess it was him. It is true that I have anaemia, a lot of members of my family have anaemia. There is also my son, several relatives, all who had it were exempted from military service.”

Milanovic: “He was a protégé, a loyal servant of that regime, he mocked Tudjman with all of us, fifty people know that.”

Plenkovic: “He joined the SDP before the change of government in 2000. I did not notice that he was a brave, concerned SDP member until then. He said that 50 people knew that I was mocking Tudjman. I just called a colleague, he said that he did not remember that.”

Milanovic: “I’m trying to remember what is true of all the things that Plenkovic said, except that he can do everything, even that, is not true.”

Plenkovic: “He is certainly not the main cause of radicalism. But it is indicative that the theses he is releasing, the theses about the military doctor, Tudjman’s hater, come from him and his belly fighters. I see that in the far right. It’s mud, banana peel, the pistons he throws at my feet. He gave a fine contribution to hate speech. “

Milanovic: “There was no statement about the Covid at Plenkovic’s press conference. Who triumphantly declared victory over the Covid, did my grandmother shake hands with the infected Đokovic? He dissolved the Parliament, called elections when it suited them, they won those elections with a miserable number of votes. And it’s all according to the rules. But the rules need to be changed, as well as the rules of the Criminal Code. “

Milanovic: “He is a bully. I fought in school playground and protected other children from such people.”

Plenkovic: “I said I would answer him, because everyone else fell silent. Nervousness starts when the case of Gorica, Gradiska, a public company … As Prime Minister, I have no right to remain silent about lies.”

Milanovic also accuses Andrej Plenkovic’s Government of “skipping” him and regulating issues of national security, i.e., those from the common domain reserved for the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic of Croatia, without the President.

And the sorry saga of mudslinging, mocking and insults has no end in sight, it seems. In a country that has so many existential problems and so much to get on with if Croatia is to be a functioning democracy transitioning from the communist regime this scandalous and pathetic charade of supposedly democratic free expression is most likely not accidental. It has been staged with the former President and it is staged with the current one so that the reality and permanency of a successful independent Croatia takes the back seat and communist heritage thrives. I am quite convinced that the hypocrisy, lined with communist nostalgia for both, lies in this

In a world with fewer rules, the only truly effective one is knowing what you can get away with. The answer today in Croatia, it turns out, is quite a lot. The question is: will the people tolerate this much longer?

In their domestic policies, both Andrej Plenkovic and Zoran Milanovic appear to embrace a noxious brew of insincere nationalism and penchant for authoritarianism (the communist Yugoslavia kind); just like Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic did. So that people don’t have a stronghold. One day these leaders defend the fight for independence elevating it to national sovereignty and right to self-determination and, on another day, they act as if that bloody fight never happened nor did it need to happen (because, to their apparent view, all was fine and dandy in Yugoslavia).  One day they vow to attack the widespread endemic corruption within the public sector and on another day, they keep devilishly shtum about the enormous theft of public wealth by individuals. 

Former communists and those who did not want an independent and democratic Croatia are proving once again that there is no limit to what they will do in order to keep Croatia stagnating in the rut of corruption, economic disaster and perpetual divisiveness that paralyses progress. Ina Vukic

Colour Me Croatian Christmas Season 2020

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Click Link for the place where you can get your: Colour Me Croatian https://colourmecroatian.com/

With the Christmas 2020 and New Year 2021 fast approaching I, like most of you, I have already started thinking about gifts to give to family, friends and neighbours. I came across this colouring-in book in the English language recently and it’s all about Croatian cultural heritage and landmarks that the world recognises Croatia by. I rushed to purchase several of these books and soon the postal service delivered them, to my delight; with them I started filling that “Christmas Stocking” for children and grown-ups.

I recommend this fun and educational book to all who have Croatian family roots generations back, to all who have visited Croatia to refresh the joy and unique cultural experience, to all who wish to visit Croatia … it is almost like a compass to reach the nucleuses that make Croatian people what they are, that make Croatia of today what it is: wonderful. Each Croatian cultural heritage, whether it is a building, a cathedral, a city, a folkloric custom or costume has a brief description in English of what it stands for and what its significance is.  

As with all picture books, this colouring-in picture book is one in which the written text could not tell the story alone, but rather the illustrations are absolutely necessary to carry part of the story or narrative. Picture books are ubiquitous in Western early childhood and primary settings, as well as in the world of grown-ups. The combination of the visual and the textual in picture books is very appealing, and research shows close examination of text and image enhances comprehension and extends language (Hsaio, 2010; Pantaleo, 2008; Shatzer, 2008; Sneddon, 2009; Taliaferro, 2009).

“Colour Me Croatian” is a very appealing picture book with an added element that engages learning and imagination about Croatia because the pictures are there to be coloured with colours every individual chooses for himself or herself.

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Living outside Croatia for decades most people make a point of bringing up their children and grandchildren born outside Croatia with bits and pieces of Croatian folklore, culture and language and all these are pieces of the puzzle that bring their identity and family roots close – shaping that ever important pride in knowing who we are from roots.   

A study done at Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia, USA) in 2010 concluded that children who knew about their family history had higher self-esteem and were better able to deal with stress. When children know their families, they are filled with a sense of fulfillment. Another study done at Emory University by Psychologists Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush found that children who have a strong family narrative enjoy better emotional health. It’s hard to feel alone when you know that you are part of something bigger. When children know what challenges, their family have faced and overcome, they are more confident to face their own challenges. They are better adjusted and more resilient. They found that the more the children knew, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.

Children, and indeed the young and old, love to learn about the world they live in as well as the family they belong to. This love, I believe, is a natural occurrence because all human beings yearn to belong and need a self-identity to live a healthy life.

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Like many people, Croatian emigrants are raising their kids away from “home turf”. Much, if not most, of their family are dotted around the world and all their roots are in Croatia. As said above, research has shown that children who know more about their families and family history are more resilient and tend to do better when facing challenges in life. This may be because seeing patterns of overcoming failures and surviving hard times can help children recognise that people can recover and triumph, despite hardships. One of the best things families can do is develop a strong family narrative and this colouring-in book “Colour Me Croatian” is such a fun and educational way to do that. This colouring-in book is almost like a miniature tapestry of Croatian heritage and by engaging with it through colouring-in a child, a person, realises that he/she is a thread that belongs to that tapestry threaded by unique culture and customs that, in fact, defines their family and roots.

It’s very likely that many Croatians living outside Croatia whose children or grandchildren have been born and raised outside Croatia have at some time during their life experienced from their children or grandchildren, upon their visit to Croatia, something that can be compared to a wonderful epiphany or realisation. And that epiphany goes something like this: I now understand you mum, dad, grandfather, grandmother…I have seen and experienced where you were born… And colouring-in the pages of this book “Colour Me Croatian” is almost like an experience of visiting Croatia, touching and feeling its culture and history. For children, this book builds a strong intergenerational self as the sense of long history stretches back for them, giving them connection that builds personal strength through knowledge.

All people have a basic human need for connection and belonging, and people who have basic human needs that are met are more resilient. In addition to teaching your children or friends about their, your, your friend’s Croatian ancestral culture and heritage this book is bound to generate narration of family stories, narrations of experiences while visiting Croatia and this in itself is something we all should strive for and maintain. I hope you enjoy “Colour Me Croatian” as much as I have been enjoying it with children and adults in my surrounds. Ina Vukic

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Zeljko Glasnovic – Dissecting Illegality of Croatian Elections 2020

General Zeljko Glasnovic

When voter popularity for a Political Party desperately seeking to keep power, such as Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ in Croatia, hits the bottom of the barrel then electoral fraud is a possibility one cannot discount nor ignore. Democracy would have us believe and trust that elections are and must be free and fair, free of fraud and corruption in particular. We have seen and see electoral fraud almost everywhere; some get away with it, some do not. Post-communist countries such as Croatia have, like other former communist countries, seen electoral fraud being suppressed even though its shocking existence, and alleged existence, has regularly upset the voters to that point where voter turnout at elections is dismal. There is a prevalent view among voters in Croatia that goes something like this: “What’s the use of voting when we know that the results will be manipulated in favour of big parties…”.

In July 2020 elections for Representatives in the Croatian Parliament barely 17% of the total electorate voted in favour of HDZ amidst a low voter turnout in general. This meant that HDZ could, just, form a minority government in coalition with other minor parties. This also meant that the war for power meant that every single parliamentary seat was of crucial importance for HDZ. And now, I turn to the 11th Electorate where three parliamentary seats in the Croatian Parliament are secured by the Constitution of the country. This is the special electorate for Croatian citizens living outside of Croatia; their voice within the Croatian Parliament. Every one of those seats was crucial for HDZ and even though, for example, retired General Zeljko Glasnovic, heading the List of Independent candidates for that electorate, some of which live abroad, received the largest number of preferential votes, he did not get in. Who got in were three candidates from the HDZ list on account of d’hondt method of vote distribution! But be that as it may, the election results announced for the 11th Electorate hit the ground with widespread allegations of electoral fraud and desperate undertakings by HDZ to ensure all three seats go to it, otherwise it could not form a government, not even a minority one! Even with Croatian Electoral Commission using d’hondt’s method to allocate seats, retired General Zeljko Glasnovic was missing 11 votes to win a seat in Croatian Parliament outright, even though he received significantly higher number of preferential votes than any of the three HDZ candidates who whittled into the Parliamentary seats for the 11th Electorate.

And so, for the first time in Croatia’s history from independence in 1991, from seceding from communist Yugoslav, we finally have in Croatia concrete measures being taken with view to inspecting the actual ballot papers from Bosnia and Herzegovina part of the 11th Electorate and ascertaining upon hard evidence whether the allegations of electoral fraud are actually substantiated. Heading this process is retired General Zeljko Glasnovic, who has been a tireless advocate for decommunization of Croatia and that includes taking positive measures in attempts to stamp out electoral fraud.

According to the Press Release (see below) issued recently on behalf of retired General Zeljko Glasnovic several irregularities that irrefutably point to electoral fraud in at least two polling stations within the 11th Electorate have been found. This fact is unacceptable and certainly points to illegalities in the July 2020 Elections in Croatia. How this will all pan out and whether the Croatian authorities will take this on board and do the right thing for democracy is yet to be seen.

Based on the above findings it seems obvious that at least in the 11th Electorate Croatian General Elections 2020 were rigged. Manipulation of ballot papers appears to have given false election results and Croatian citizens living abroad have ended up without a representative in the Croatian Parliament of their choice!

Croatian people are convinced that corruption is widespread, including electoral fraud, and they all have stories to tell, either from their own experience or heard from others, including the media. They are frustrated because so little is being done about the situation, and because they feel helpless and see themselves as being played for fools. Many cynically believe that in order to get along they have to “play the game”— that “the System” compels them to do so. Hence, I, for one, am encouraged by this investigation into the alleged electoral fraud in Croatia by retired General Zeljko Glasnovic.

Below is the Press Release mentioned above translated into English:

“7 October 2020

On behalf of retired General Zeljko Glasnovic:

Press release regarding the illegality of the elections in 11th Constituency and illegality of the Croatian Parliament

The Head of the Independent List for the 11th Constituency (Zeljko Glasnovic) informs the Croatian and world public and the institutions of the Republic of Croatia and the EU that he has obtained irrefutable evidence that the elections for the 11th Constituency in the last elections (July 2020) for the 10th Assembly of the Croatian Parliament were illegal and that new elections for the Croatian Parliament must be called urgently.

Confirmed by the published General Elections results and as it is by now well-known, Zeljko Glasnovic, who headed the Independent List for the 11th Constituency at July 2020 Parliamentary elections, ended up 11 votes short for an outright win of a mandate. 

His Independent list No.10 promptly lodged objections and the State Electoral Commission (SEC/DIP) was informed of irregularities and in particular of irregularities at polling stations 26 (Mostar) and 34 (Livno). Namely, at polling station 26, 3,423 voters allegedly voted, which means that it took 25 seconds per voter to vote, which is almost impossible. At polling station 34, according to the statements of three members of the polling station committee, Zeljko Glasnovic’s independent list was denied 11 votes.

Unfortunately, all our objections were swiftly rejected.

Pursuant to the law on the Right to Access Information, soon after the elections and the official publication of the election results, we requested access to the entire documentation including the ballot papers.

Three persons, authorised by Zeljko Glasnovic, inspected the documentation on 23-25 ​​September 2020, after which they processed the available documents.

Prior to the inspection, these three persons were received by the Vice President of the SEC/DIP, Ana Lovrin and others, and requested that an official record be kept of everything. However, such a request was denied. The inspection took place in the basement hallway. All available ballot boxes were found unsealed and opened, and ballot papers and other documentation from polling station 34 (Livno) were in piles on the table and the boxes were missing. When we asked why the boxes were opened and the documents taken out, the officials answered that they had to open them “to see what was inside”. We consider this to be illegal and took photographs of everything for the purposes of factual documentation.

During the inspection of boxes from the Mostar polling station No. 26, 5 invalid ballots were found among the valid ballots, namely ballot serial numbers: 033868, 034318, 034136, 034657 and 035184.

When inspecting the documentation with Livno polling station No. 34, the following irregularities were found:

  • box with unused leaflets serial numbers 15501 – 16000 (500 ballot papers) was found open although it should not have been opened and the said serial numbers were marked in blue and difficult to read;
  • by examining the contents of the box with unused ballot papers, it was found that among the unused ballot papers serial numbers from 15501 to 16000, 7 “inserted” ballots were found, which do not belong to that polling station or to that ballot box. Namely, numbers 089494 (found filed in place of serial number 016070), 089495 (found filed in place of serial number 016175), 089496 (slotted in where 016222 should have been), 089500 (slotted in where 016358 should have been), 089497 (slotted in where 016373 should have been), 089498 (slotted in where 016420 should have been), and 089499 (slotted in where 015011 should have been). The said ballot papers that were taken out of the unused ballot papers box and replaced by “other” ballot paper were found among the valid ballots (counted as valid by the SEC/DIP).
  • Among the valid ballots another “inserted” ballot paper from the 11th Constituency, serial number 003829 was found.
  • It was further established that 9 ballot papers of serial numbers (015001 – 016500) were missing, namely ballot papers serial numbers 015115, 015179, 015362, 015542, 015747, 015786, 015854, 015887 and 015929.
  • the determined situation in the Minutes record does not correspond to the number and the distribution of valid and invalid ballots
  • An irregularity was observed in the sequence of use of ballot papers. And so, we have serial numbers 015001 to 015094 (except serial number 015011 which was pulled out and replaced by an “insert”) that are unused, and after that sequence starting with number 015095 to 015676 were used (except for the “missing” 015115, 015179, 015362, 015542, 015747, 015786, 015854, 015887, 015929), followed again by a series of unused serial numbers 015677 to 015701, and then again a series of used from serial numbers 015702 to 016000 (except “missing” serial numbers 015747, 015786, 015854, 015887, 015929).
  • Further, we found a series of serial numbers no. 016001 to 016500 unused ballot papers (except extracted series numbers 16070, 16175, 16222, 16358 and 16373 and 16420, and replaced by the above-mentioned “inserted” ballot papers), and this series of 500 ballot papers was supposed to be in a sealed box.
  • Examination revealed an increase in the number of invalid ballots, the number of votes per list does not match the official Minutes record.

We emphasise that we asked for a few more days for further analysis of polling station 26 (Mostar), but this was not permitted.

It is important to emphasise that the ballot papers and Minutes record from polling station 34 (Livno) were found on the table in piles, not in boxes.

At the end, we asked the SEC/DIP not to destroy the election materials, but they informed us in writing that the SEC/DIP will act “in accordance with the Regulations on the protection and processing of archival and registry material created in the work performed by SEC/DIP and other bodies for elections and referendums.” Therefore, we conclude that there is a danger of the ballot papers being destroyed within 60 days from the day of the official publication of the election results.

In Zagreb on October 7, 2020.

under the authority of General Zeljko Glasnovic

Mate Knezović, Lawyer”

Ina Vukic

CLICK HERE FOR The PRESS RELEASE IN THE CROATIAN LANGUAGE/ OBJAVA ZA JAVNOST NA HRVATSKOM JEZIKU

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