Croatia: Blatant Communist Style Intimidation In Presidential Campaigning

Presidential candidate Ivo Josipovic Photo: Screetshot HRT TV

Presidential candidate Ivo Josipovic
Photo: Screetshot HRT TV


At and around election times anything and everything is possible. After all – it is a race the results of which are largely determined by the ordinary person, the voter. Although the official campaigns for presidential elections in Croatia (reportedly to be held 11 January 2015) have not commenced, for months now, the pre-campaigns of the three (known) candidates have accelerated fiercely and brought about in eyes of many, particularly those living in the democracies of the West, the frame in which one senses that Croatia has little chance of living a true and full democracy any time soon. This is blatantly clear and obvious when the head of Croatia – the President Ivo Josipovic – goes on television and purposefully misrepresents democracy and democratic rights of expression and freedom of association to a nation widely unexposed and uniformed about democracy, but a nation that is still under the impression or the mindset created during communist Yugoslavia, which tends to make people believe that what a leader says – is right!

Only a few days ago Josipovic appeared on a TV show in which he characterised freedom of expression and the rich variety of sources offering information, opinion, statements…about presidential election candidates as defamation and defamatory attacks, and, gave the explicit impression that freedom of association (support etc) was a bad thing.

Translation of what he said: “Ivo Josipovic: …defamation. I think that is not good, but I need to warn that there are some candidates who have the guard that they’ll do everything nicely but there is a whole regiment of collaborators, friends, supporters who through various portals, media, newspapers, in reality vomit black tint. And that is crypto-democracy and that is crypto blackening of the opponent and I see that public sees that and recognises that.

Question: there have been some such attempts to use defamation to introduce black tint into the pre-campaigning, do you expect that during the real campaign there will be serious political attacks and hits that come beneath the level od democratic ones?

Ivo Josipovic: well see, outside these mainstream media a lot is happening, look at Dnevno ( , then look at Udarno ( then look at … I don’t know what those portals are called, you’ll see and read the worst of things …traitor, this and that and what else not about family, friends, that is the worst type of defamation…look even a book has been published about me, the Red President, you saw there were lots of people there, a whole panel was dedicated to slinging mud, I consider that politically irrelevant just like I do the daily statements by one of the opposing candidates that are disappointing, that discourse of insult, politicising in the dirty sense … so there is no relevance and the elections will show that.”

Not only does Josipovic seem stupid here – for there is nothing crypto (hidden, secret or concealed) in articles written and published about a candidate or in support of another in numerous outlets but he presumes here that a candidate controls everything that is to be said or done about them or in support of them by media at large, while they themselves “pretend” to be nice etc. Well, perhaps he speaks from personal experience in the communist underground, where control is the modus operandi and free speech or expression is an unknown or an undesirable?

Besides utterly wrongly (without legal proof of defamation) pointing the finger at certain media outlets in terms of defamation here, his action reminds one of the communist-style intimidation during the years of former Yugoslavia where those labeled as defamers, without trial or court of law deliberations were in fact jailed, frequently in the Goli Otok prison where his own father is said to have been the governor for quite some time, or their business put out of business. It is of no wonder that this particular TV appearance by Josipovic was construed, with utter horror, as a threat to have the media outlets mentioned – closed.

It is easy but totally deplorable, from the position of President or power, to manipulate masses that are rather uninformed and uneducated on matters of democracy, including that which guides as to when something can be called defamation and when it cannot. Calling something defamation when it is not or it has not be proven to be so in a court of law as the law requires, is just as bad as engaging in defamation. Such type of indirect but nevertheless devastating intimidation from political and government leaders is something Croatians must fight against tooth and nail. One can expect and forgive an ordinary person to call something defamation when it has not been tested in court of law as such, but one cannot expect nor forgive such behaviour from a lawyer and president of a democratic state that is supposed to be ruled by law at every instance.

Relevant to the above TV appearance, defamation would mean making or publishing of false statements about a candidate. The relevant law on defamation in Croatia says that defamation is when a person publishes a falsehood, as true fact about someone, knowing it to be false. But then, the ordinary citizen of Croatia is not likely to rush into finding out what legally constitutes defamation and what does not – and Josipovic knows that very well. And defamation is a strong word; one that associates undesirable qualities of the one said to have engaged in defamation. Hence, the only conclusion I can draw from this appalling TV appearance is that the ground under Josipovic’s electoral feet is shaken and is shaking severely and he will stop at nothing to save his political hide – even try and convince the Croatian voters that telling the truth in public’s interest is defamation and punishable, when it comes to matters published about him (he does not mention any defamation against any other candidate and indeed plays hard to appear as victim of foul play). He is trying to tell the public that it’s a bad and unwelcome thing to have lots of sources of information; to have the situation where a great number of citizens are engaged in the political or election debate upon which their own future depends! Very, very nasty! As president of a democratic state he should only be too happy that there are many and diverse outlets for information and opinion – but he is expressly bothered about that! That is sad for democracy, sad for Croatia. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: Smearing Will Not Stick To Kolinda – She Is A Leader

Croatian presidential candidate Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on "Sunday at 2" TV program 21 September 2014 Photo: Screen shot

Croatian presidential candidate
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
on “Sunday at 2” TV program 21 September 2014
Photo: Screen shot

Rushed, half-baked backroom deals that are doomed to wither away into economic impact nothingness, slow chipping away at corruption by processing “top dogs” instead of building anti-corruption monitoring in all places of public office, or measures of nationalistic pride will not save Croatia from economic bankruptcy and social disintegration. Leadership will!

Presidential Candidate Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic is a leader; she has proven that and she commands respect as such. What’s more important is that she is a champion of democratic thought and action – something Croatian society needs.

The fact that she is widely perceived as a leader is reflected in the campaign of smears against her, evidently waged, either directly or indirectly through the control of the media by the current president Ivo Josipovic’s camp. A campaign of smears is usually associated with the distribution of negative labels intended to slander a prominent political figure or categorise him/her into a less valuable or unwelcome ‘category’ of people.

Some months ago when the possibility of Kolida Grabar-Kitarovic becoming a candidate at the coming presidential elections the smear campaign against her focused on sexist remarks such as “she is a good looking woman but”, “she is a pretty, blonde woman who knows what she wants”, “she has advanced in her career with the ease of ‘knife sliding through soft butter’”. As her candidacy became more and more likely she was labeled ‘Barbie’! She stood her ground as her attackers realised that sexist smears, which had the goal of portraying the idea that a blonde, good looking woman could not have what it takes to be a president, suddenly stopped with such innuendos and introduced the ‘Masonic boogeyman’ into the smear campaign, painting her maliciously as a personally devoted member of Masonic associations that have nothing good to bring to Croatia, or the world for that matter.

The sexist and Masonic smears seemed not to work, palpably withered into ridiculous portrayals, Kolinda’s leadership qualities prevailed as the qualities she most ardently and ably represents.

And so the smear campaign against Grabar-Kitarovic moved up a notch or two: she is to be portrayed by the opposition as a candidate who has no opinion of her own on any issues currently perceived as important for the Croatian public!

She was interviewed on the widely watched “Sunday at 2” TV program on Sunday 21 September 2014 and wouldn’t you know it, the majority of mainstream media outlets in Croatia published commentaries that are either lies or half-truths regarding her answers to some of these ‘important’ questions, evidently intentionally omitting to point out that Grabar-Kitarovic has strong personal views on issues but that she puts her duty as politician in a democracy above her personal views. This of course would be a positive characteristic in any strong democracy but it seems not to be the case in Croatia where democracy is defined by the socially isolated and personal career driven political elites who are, as opposed to Grabar-Kitarovic, not inclusive politicians – to whom the variety of opinions in society and how to achieve a sustainable consensus do not matter and public debates or submissions have no merit.

At the beginning of her interview in “Sunday at 2” Grabar-Kitarovic stated: “…I have travelled the whole world and nobody can tell me that, with all the potentials it has, Croatia has to be in the state it is. We need strong leadership, we need people who have the knowledge, who have courage and I believe that I am that.”

When it comes to her answers to the ‘important’ questions put to her (from about the 40 minute mark of the televised interview) most the mainstream media acted atrociously, failing to relay the actual punch lines of her answers and thus portraying a person who does not have a personal opinion but wants to consult with the public/people on everything – as if that is a bad characteristic. When in fact, that is what true democracy is made of!

Serbian Cyrillic in Vukovar

To the question: “(Serbian) Cyrillic signs on public buildings in Vukovar, yes or no, what do you think (?), she replied: “I am not against those signs … but I am against raising them in places where they cause unrest.”

Communist crimes

To the questions regarding public divisions stemming from WWII and post WWII communist and Ustashe crimes that are constantly being regurgitated in Croatia she replied: “…that is the past, a new generation is coming in Croatia, many people have suffered during communism, I had neighbours who went to jail for singing a Croatian song, my uncle ended up on Goli Otok because he was dating a young girl in whom a certain man was interested … we need to move away from this chapter, I was born much after WWII … we need to unite, reconcile … It’s a fact that there has been no satisfaction reached in Croatia for those who had in any way suffered during communist regime … a victim is a victim … we must ensure that, at least, those who had offended during the former regime, who are suspected of having committed criminal acts and in other ways breached the penal code, are not occupying high government positions…”.

Zagreb City Square named after Josip Broz Tito

To the question as to whether Croatia’s capital needs a square named after Marshall Tito her reply was: “…that is a good question but I would leave the matter to the local community, as the president I would not on my own change the names of city squares and streets, I would leave that to public debate, but given that we are talking about that, time has come for Zagreb to have a city square or a main street named after the first president of Croatia, dr Franjo Tudjman, which we still do not have.” After the interviewer said that Zagreb does have a square named after Franjo Tudjman she said: “Yes but something representative and big in the city’s centre!”. Asked about her opinion on Marshal Tito and naming city squares she affirmed: “Personally I would not name city squares after him but I respect that there are people who value him.”

I do not divide people into left and right, I am entering these elections with clarity, with modern conservatism, which is inclusive, tolerant and respectful of other people’s opinions. I’m counting on the voters in Croatia and I count on our programs being evaluated and that which can move Croatia forward, that which can enhance life in Croatia, that which can take us out of poverty.”

The commentary or articles that appeared in most Croatian mainstream media in relation to this interview given by Grabar-Kitarovic make it clear that many journalists in Croatia were more involved in moderating, rather than leading in factual reporting of the event; indeed their reporting can be considered as attempting to shape public opinion against Grabar-Kitarovic rather than reporting ‘verbatim’ of who said what. To understand the specific role journalism plays is to create an information environment that builds upon democracy. In democracies, people need to be properly informed and it breaks my heart to see how the many of mainstream journalists in Croatia reporting on this TV interview failed so miserably at informing the public fully about such an important matter as the opinions of a presidential candidate are; failed miserably to state that Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic excels in democratic considerations and evidently counts on the Croatian public to help with the wealth of its knowledge and opinion shape Croatia under her leadership. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


This post has been translated into the Croatian language (click to link to the article)

Ovaj članak na hrvatskom jeziku (OVDJE)


Croatia: End Of Lukewarm And Incompetent Mandate Era On Horizon As Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic Becomes Presidential Candidate

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic with Ivo Josipovic Photo: Zeljko Lukunic/Pixsell

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic with Ivo Josipovic
Photo: Zeljko Lukunic/Pixsell


It is official: Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic is officially in the race for President of Croatia, elections for which are now likely to occur at the end of this year.
She will run as Croatian Democratic Union’s (HDZ’s) candidate.

The two major presidential candidates come from political centre: Ivo Josipovic (current incumbent/ Social Democrat prior to becoming the president; stems out of former Yugoslavia communist party echelons and Social Democrats membership) on the centre-left and Grabar-Kitarovic (Stems out of HDZ membership/ no communist or any other totalitarian regime ties) on the centre-right.

A leading Croatian newspaper Vecernji List article in its address of Nova TV survey regarding the two candidates writes: “When voters are offered characteristics they mark the president (Ivo Josipovic) as a skillful politician. Then, as decisive and sincere. They also consider him a fighter against corruption, educated and a person who understands the ordinary person. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic is a candidate who understands foreign politics and defence. Voters also assess her as a person who is decisive and who is not corrupted. They consider her as a fighter against corruption and sincere.”


As her candidacy was announced Friday, the mentioned survey places Grabar-Kitarovic with almost 38% of voter preference. This figure of approval, while exceedingly rare throughout the world for a first-time candidate, is of monumental significance given that it also serves as a certain proof that Croatian voters are looking for a fresh start, for the future rather than the past.

It’s of note that while the surveyed Croats saw Ivo Josipovic as a fighter against corruption the reality has been that his fight against corruption has employed the tactics of action-evasion as well as lukewarm reactions to cases of corruption before Croatian courts during his presidential mandate. He has failed miserably even at leading a badly needed culture change against corruption in Croatia. He has demonstrated no initiative of note in this area whatsoever. The latest example of Josipovic’s inclination to place a political rather than a purely criminal-act-of-individual label on corruption is seen in his latest moral as well as apparent statutes interpretation transgression. That is, after Croatia’s Supreme court confirmed a guilty verdict against former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader for taking a bribe from Hungarian oil group MOL in exchange for allowing it a dominant position in Croatian oil firm INA, Ivo Josipovic had Saturday 14 June labeled Sanader’s corruption as “high treason”! Suggesting that corrupt actions of individuals (Ivo Sanader) within a nationally important but largely privatised company, such as INA is (which, in the process of privatisation, handed over to the Hungarian MOL the power of decisive majority vote on the company’s affairs), constitutes high treason!

When we look into the relevant legislation in Croatia on criminal acts against the Republic of Croatia, “Penal code” (Kazneni zakon) for “high treason” we find Articles 135 – 155. These Articles are associated with high treason in varying degrees. While a proven treasonous intent in an act of large scale or even violently coloured corruption could perhaps be plucked out of this legislation and remotely possibly launched  or engineered into some indictment for the crime of high treason, none of these Articles refer directly to the “usual” corruption within individual company dealings regardless of how large or significant for the nation a company may be.

Ivo Sanader has been found corrupt and there are no excuses or justifications for these crimes. He deserves all the punishment coming to him. However, by labeling Ivo Sanader’s corruption as high treason, president of Croatia, Ivo Josipovic, has, to my view, demonstrated a complete disregard of Croatia’s relevant legislation and purposefully used “high treason” label in order to score political points, confuse the masses and provoke the masses into further and biased condemnation of Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), to which Sanader belonged and whose candidate Grabar-Kitarovic is.

I am yet to see a journalist, or anyone else for that matter, from Croatia, analysing this latest Josipovic’s terrible transgression. Perhaps Josipovic and his advisory camp relish the fact that the concept of high treason mobilises high emotions against the person labelled so and against those who were around him? But it is wrong, horribly wrong! This lends nothing to a real fight against corruption, or positive results of any such fight. This also points to a conclusion that Josipovic was not, is not, a true fighter against corruption. He was not and is not a fighter against high treason, either – for if he were he would have dealt with the issue of State secrets/documents that were evidently leaked out of Stjepan Mesic’s presidential office between 2000 and 2010!

If the “usual” corruption were grounds for high treason, Croatia (and most countries of the world) would have to impugn nearly every government administration.


If Josipovic considers that corruption in Sanader’s case is high treason, then why did he not say that such is his opinion only but that the country’s laws should be reviewed to bring that opinion into legislation, instead of wrongfully making it sound as a fact under the law? Why did he not initiate such legislative review, as a president should? The answer to this is, as far as I have seen, that Josipovic most often pays aloof lip-services (to gain political points and impress as a person who is doing something about the corruption) to the anti-corruption fighting but in fact fails miserably at initiating or sparking-off the badly needed widespread and culture changes in the fight against corruption in Croatia.

The above Ivo Josipovic transgressions make Grabar-Kitarovic’s presidential candidacy all the more a breath of fresh air in Croatia’s future. Her win would, I believe, for starters seriously dampen the political public agenda of those politicians, NGO’s and organisations in Croatia who form the public left-oriented (communist sympathisers and activists) lynch mob that’s pushing for HDZ’s collective guilt for corruption on the back of Sanader’s guilt. Undoubtedly, sadly, the Croatian public will be seeing more of such injustice and witch hunting in the coming months, as the presidential campaign accelerates. It is, therefore, gladdening to see such significant support for Grabar-Kitarovic in this early stage of the campaign especially when one considers the fact that such support will surely find a way of showing-up this lynch mob’s deceit as deceit, and facts as facts. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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