Croatia: Except For Homeland Movement, Local Government Elections 2021 Platforms Largely Blind To Diaspora’s Power For Real Progress

Local government elections in Croatia were going to occur in May regardless of the sudden death in March of Zagreb’s long-standing Mayor Milan Bandic. In the local elections, on Sunday, May 16, 2021 (with second round on 30th May), Croatian citizens will elect their representative and executive power for the next four years in 576 local government units. That is how many municipalities, cities and counties Croatia has in which citizens will elect councils and assemblies, as well as mayors, county representatives, prefects and their deputies. And remember, Croatia is a country of just over 4 million people! To say that such atomisation of the country into so many local government units is ridiculous and devastation-prone would be an understatement. But, the bottom line is, and a bitter one at that, is that it keeps the politically suitable in a job! Just as it did in communist Yugoslavia. Full control of a nation under the guise of decentralisation of power and self-government!

With the need to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, which is currently peaking at its third wave with thousands new cases every day, albeit declining, dozens of deaths every day and the visibly crumbling public health care system, and the aftermath of the devastating Zagreb and Banovina earthquakes, it is clear that 2021 local elections will perhaps like never before (in living memory) be all the more demanding. Economic losses from Coronavirus pandemic and the frequent earthquakes that have been serially devastating Zagreb and Banovina around it, since March 2020, have significantly impoverished the country and people.  

One would think that local government election platforms should have some consistency with the needs of the whole nation rather than appearing like some individual flickering lights in the skies that glitter individually but together form no contours that would appease the fears for a safe and working future for most if not all. So far, the election platforms seeping out into the media are very much about local issues and, indeed, perhaps this time more than ever before in the history of local government elections we might see votes go to those who are likely to achieve most for the local community. This, of course, is a desired effect in a democratic world but it can be a disaster if local needs fall by wayside of national pursuits and/or priorities that ensure the continuance of projects kick-started by some EU Funds or any funds that have no permanent maintenance or growth. It’s like sticking a band aid on a wound that will not cease festering without proper treatment.

So, it’s like: let’s fix the broken pieces and not worry about the durability of the fix!   

With an enormous number of candidates, political parties and independents, running at these elections it is easy to see that the political national cohesiveness towards a national solidarity and togetherness the Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic/HDZ Party is airing as a most essential component that will save Croatia is falling on deaf ears when it comes to gathering forces in order to fix Croatia as a whole. This is not surprising. Both HDZ and SDP Parties, as largest political parties in the land are losing support and ground by landslides and the smaller parties and independents have seemingly also incorporated into their election promise the use of EU and other funds serving as temporary solution band aids. Not many delve into how to use these funds in order to become independent of them at the other end.

The much-needed job-creation is not surfacing so far as a common thread in election campaigns. For those areas that depend on tourism much of the election campaign energy is being invested in measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 so that the coming tourist season could bear some solid results. This of course, in the current pandemic climate is a “no-brainer”! “You just do what you’ve been doing, and you should be alright” type of a thing!    

Of course, for the areas devastated by the earthquakes it is a given that re-building of housing and infrastructure will be a priority. However, apart from political rhetoric and declarations it is at this stage unclear as to how all this will occur outside disaster-relief funds from the EU, which is not a bottomless pit.

What strikes me as indicative of “more of the same”, lame or no real progress in the economy for the next 4 years, is that most candidates and/or political parties vying for local government positions have avoided plans that capitalise on the enormous potential that the Croatian diaspora has in contributing to local economies and job-creation. For decades now those in government in Croatia have persistently spoken of the great potential the Croatian diaspora has for real growth and progress, economic, demographic and overall. But as I have written here many times before, this rhetoric is nothing more than a tool for vote-gathering at parliamentary elections. Nothing much gets done and the laws passed in parliament do not reflect the need for Croatia to truly turn itself towards its diaspora, which is rich in knowledge and financial power.  Where better than on the local level to act in order to make come to fruitful life the contribution that Croatian returnees or Croatians investing from the diaspora!

But this is not happening at the 2021 local government elections. Not as far as it can now be seen. Perhaps the coming weeks will prove me wrong (?) It’s turning into a race of largely left-wing, communist Yugoslavia nostalgic political parties used to milking somebody else’s purses (this time the EU’s and the IMF’s) instead of setting up own industry that would ensure prosperous ongoing survival.

The only political party that to my knowledge has accentuated in its official election program the need to involve the Croatian diaspora in the building up of local economic strength is the Homeland Movement Party (stranka Domovinski pokret), headed by Miroslav Skoro. Its election platform has a dedicated chapter on the role of the Croatian diaspora and how to harness its invaluable contribution for the betterment of local economies and demography.

This chapter is titled:
“The Return of Emigrated Croats and Their Families”:

  • Contribution to demographic and economic recovery
  • Identification of deficient occupations
  • Assistance in socialization, especially of children
  • Cooperation with consular services and Catholic missions around the world
  • Systematic assistance to young people and young families in housing independence through the launch of a pilot project through EU funds
  • Systematic assistance in resolving administrative documentation
  • Through an active immigration policy towards people whose body is abroad and whose heart is in Croatia, let us preserve our identity

Ina Vukic

Croatia: Empowerment And Engagement Of Young People In Politics Is Essential For Democracy

Block for Croatia party leadership (L) Ludwig Radic with Ana Lederer (R) Photo: Facebook

The most comprehensive post-election quantitative analysis commissioned by the European Parliament in June 2019 shows that the higher turnout at polling stations across the EU is the result of greater interest from young voters. Citizens under the age of 25 (+ 14%) and those between the ages of 25 and 39 (+ 12%) went to the polls in large numbers. In Croatia, an increase of 5 percentage points was recorded in both age groups (18% turnout of young people up to 24 years of age, 25% turnout of young people in the group of 25-39 years old).

The fact that young people in Croatia, overall, are relatively disinterested and largely abstain from voting in elections, whether they live in Croatia or have emigrated in the past decade in enormous numbers, is a concern particularly because the future, which is theirs more than anybody else’s, is likely not to be the way they would want it unless they engage more. The relatively low levels of interest (closely estimated around 10 to 25% in 2019/2020 presidential/general elections in Croatia) in the young people to vote or become politically engaged are largely a sign of protest against alarmingly pervasive corruption and nepotism in Croatia. Various sources point to a prevalence of reasoning that there is no use in voting because nothing ever changes. This points to an unhealthy environment filled with disappointment and anger at the seeming helplessness of individual citizens, including the young, to change things for the better or to their needs. There are politicians in Croatia that claim that turnout of young people at elections will increase dramatically once trust in the political and other establishments is returned to them! Without actual involvement and engagement of the young within political parties this trust established politicians talk about will not be restored.

Young people need to “own” the process of change and restoration of trust by being and active part of that change.

Millennials – born between 1981 and 1996 – are already the largest living generation and the largest age group in the workforce, they are followed by Generation Z (post-Millennials) – born between 1997 and 2012 – who are the largest living generation in the education system that should largely develop and encourage critical thinking aimed at their surrounds, at the world and its political and economic course. Startups largely associated with the Millennials have revolutionised economies throughout the world although in Croatia they still remain the pursuit of individuals rather than a focused government strategy. Their tastes and appreciation of differences are shifting the culture, and their enormous appetite for social media has transformed human interaction. Politics is the next arena ripe for disruption and rectification of that which stifles progress of the world they live in.  

If a generation shift in young people’s political culture is not taking place, which makes their views and expectations different to those of previous generations, it should be. It is the Millennials and Generation Z that will clarify and assert the role of politics in everyday life. I feel certain of that. It is these generations that will demonstrate that politics should simply mean strategies and actions that create equal opportunities for all or, at least, those that want to take advance of those opportunities both personally and nationally. We see in these younger generations a greater participation in issue-led, rather than ideological, politics and a concern with issues such as the environment, animal rights, pro-life vs. pro-choice, criminal justice reforms, and so on. Issue-led participation in politics overwhelmingly home in on matters that matter on the ground, in everyday life, in immediate surrounds. Hence, this approach to politics has a significant potential in reviving the sense of patriotism lost through decades of materialistic pursuits on the individual level. This more than anything is important in a country like Croatia, which is still after 30 years struggling to fully transition out of the communist regime it was locked into for 50 years in former Yugoslavia.  

And the Millennial coupled with the elder members of Generation Z are coming to Croatia as well as to the rest of the world; the only questions remain are when and how fast will they arrive to take significant hold of the rudder that steers Croatia’s foreseeable future.

Ludwig Radic Photo: Facebook

On Facebook social media  on 9 November, I came across a status post that attracted my attention in the context of young people gaging active interest in political developments and political party membership in Croatia. It was the Facebook profile of a young man from Zagreb, Ludwig Radic and he titled his post “The only light in the darkness of Croatian politics” and the post goes like this:


On this day exactly one year ago a party was founded ‘Block for Croatia’ (Blok za Hrvatsku), which I joined in August this year.

Why the Block for Croatia?

The answer is very simple. When I was politically engaged, I always aspired to ideals, which do not exist at all in mainstream parties. However, in 2016, two people emerged who awakened hope in many to return to a consistent policy. These are the former Minister of Culture, Dr. Zlatko Hasanbegovic and his deputy Dr. Ana Lederer. Many who until then did not want to go to the polls saw a new patriotic icon in the form of Zlatko Hasanbegović.

The first serious collaboration with these people followed the next year during local elections, when we built the Croatian patriotic option in Zagreb together. These people brought to our Croatia something that has long been forgotten and written off in Croatian politics – authenticity. It is currently the highest quality brand within the Croatian right-wing electorate.

The Block for Croatia was formed in extremely difficult circumstances, under a media blockade and the ‘fire’ of some individuals who really believed that our party would not last even a month. Regardless of these circumstances, thanks to the authenticity and consistent policy, we showed our strength in the parliamentary elections in 2020, when Zlatko Hasanbegovic sovereignly entered the Croatian Parliament, even though the entire political mainstream was convinced that his political death was coming. Personally, I think that the establishment and work of the Block can be characterised by the immortal words of the British statesman Winston Churchill ‘blood, sweat and tears’.

The strength of the Block for Croatia lies precisely in its members. These are people who are not classic politicians or demagogues who earn political points on the misery and distress of the suffering Croatian people. On the contrary, we have people who have earned their ‘rating’ solely through hard work, as university professors, literary critics, lawyers, and then as ministers and government officials. It is worth emphasising the fact that the Block for Croatia gives a hand to young people without attached strings, who exclusively want to contribute to the prosperity of our homeland Croatia. When I look at all the circumstances and facts, it was not difficult to make a decision to join the Block. With my experience gained so far, I will help the Block for Croatia to continue on the winning path as before.

I repeat, this is the only light in the darkness of Croatian politics, and our prominent members of the party have proven it with their work so far. I am proud to be a part of this story and I believe we will be even stronger in the future!”

I thought the above to be a wonderfully enlightening article as to how some young people in Croatia think, act and carve their path into democratic engagement. There should be much more of this in the coming decade if Croatia will develop into a full democracy.  Generally, young people are not confident when it comes to participating in the democratic process — and that’s probably contributing to their disengagement from electoral politics. That is, some young people do not actually know how to decide which political party best reflects their views or understand that politics are not a pursuit separated from living standards and life of people in the country.  

Croatia should do more to equip young people to have that confidence to participate in the democratic process, especially when they leave school. That is the only way in generating trust in democracy or restoring the lost one. After all, half of Croatia’s Millennial and all of Croatia’s Generation Z are born after Croatia seceded from the communist Yugoslavia regime and developing democracy in Croatia during the decades after the complete end of the Homeland War in 1998, has been contaminated and stifled by the stubborn remnants of communist regime inheritance. While, fortunately, there are many young people like Ludwig Radic in Croatia asserting their engagement in the political arena their presence, or indeed their impetus still need a higher level of relevance in both pre-election platforms and public office.

Young voters in Croatia can play a crucial role in deciding who wins and who loses an election, helping to shape politics, realpolitik and the Croatian nation for decades to come. With the current political confusion and instability in Croatia, with new general elections and presidential elections due in a handful of years’ time, there is no better time to consider issues concerning the involvement of young people in politics and to reflect on the ways in which the existing systems can encourage them to participate more competently and confidently in the Croatian democratic process and hence, give a boost to an eventual full democracy outcome. Certainly, the mass exodus of young people from Croatia because of the ineffective political platforms in power is a strong motivating force for realpolitik change where this trend of looking outside of Croatia rather than within for a decent livelihood could be reversed. Ina Vukic

(Block for Croatia website:

Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions:

All content on “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is for informational purposes only. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is not responsible for and expressly disclaims all liability for the interpretations and subsequent reactions of visitors or commenters either to this site or its associate Twitter account, @IVukic or its Facebook account. Comments on this website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writer will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The nature of information provided on this website may be transitional and, therefore, accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed. This blog may contain hypertext links to other websites or webpages. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information on any other website or webpage. We do not endorse or accept any responsibility for any views expressed or products or services offered on outside sites, or the organisations sponsoring those sites, or the safety of linking to those sites. Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome and encouraged to voice their opinion regardless of identity, politics, ideology, religion or agreement with the subject in posts or other commentators. Personal or other criticism is acceptable as long as it is justified by facts, arguments or discussions of key issues. Comments that include profanity, offensive language and insults will be moderated.
%d bloggers like this: