Congratulations, Madam President Of Croatia – Now Comes The Hard Part!

11 January 2015 Victory Night Centre: Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, President elect of Croatia Right: Jadranka Juresko-Kero, Election Campaign Leader Standing behind Grabar-Kitarovic to left: Tomislav Karamarko, President of Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ

11 January 2015 Victory Night
Centre: Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, President elect of Croatia
Right: Jadranka Juresko-Kero, Election Campaign Leader
Standing behind Grabar-Kitarovic to left:
Tomislav Karamarko, President of Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ

 

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the newly elected President of Croatia has achieved an amazing victory even though the winning margin between her and her opponent Ivo Jospovic in numerical value is considered minimal or very low. But to achieve victory in so profoundly politically divided country at this particular time of economic slump and brinks of threatening bankruptcy is a result worthy of greatness in its own right.

Since Sunday January 11, when the highest voter turnout in the last 15 years voted for a new president – aroused from a rather deep democratic sleep by the emotions unleashed by the Centre-Right (Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ and coalition currently in parliamentary opposition) and Centre-Left (Social Democrats and coalition currently holding government) face-off – Croatia is being forced to take the temperature of its body politic. For months, the former have, rightly so, accused the government as incompetent and responsible for the country’s dire economic woes with unemployment running at over 19% and some 70% living in relative poverty, while the latter wrongfully, in efforts of imputing collective guilt, keep accusing the former as being a criminal and corrupt organisation because its former leader, Ivo Sanader, had been convicted of corruption and fraud.

To demonstrate the deep divide in the country one needs only to look at the reaction of Croatia’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic: even three days after the presidential victory he has not found the decency to congratulate Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and thereby acknowledge, if not applaud, the democratic rights expressed through voting by Croatian voters that voted for her! Furthermore, he announces his unwillingness to collaborate with the new president of his state!

So the great irony of Croatia’s current situation is that it’s facing both a cliff and a standoff. Grabar-Kitarovic has won the election despite the enormous and seemingly unconquerable divisions in the country. The division is building up into a vicious standoff between former communists (often representing those who did not want the breakup of communist Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s) and those who fought and defended the nation’s right to self-determination and an independent Croatia. But all are facing a looming “fiscal cliff,” and the new President must overcome the divide and navigate towards achieving a greater unity within the nation against the backdrop of Centre/Right – Centre/Left face-off.

Indeed, Grabar Kitarović stressed in her first interview that now was a time that Croatia united and did not become divided which is what has happened over the last few years. She stated that she wants now to get to work on lifting Croatia out of the deep economic crisis it is in together with Prime Minister Milanović. Grabar Kitarović, says she will call Milanović herself if he does not call in the next few days.

That is a sign of a good leader: duty takes priority. Something Croatia’s Prime Minister Milanovic evidently lacks. A true leader is a master of bringing together two opposing bodies to form a single, cohesive group – or at least as cohesive as possible. The extreme polarisation in politics has caused a splintering of the public’s perception, trust, and faith in government and the government insists on staying put!

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has worked very hard campaigning for a better Croatia and captured the trust of multitudes. But the hard part of her path to the presidency is just getting started. The Social Democrats holding government and their political coalition partners are behaving like two-year-olds with a temper-tantrum! They’ve dug their heels in and keep attacking Croatian democracy with utterly unfounded and unfair nationalistic slur and awful vilification against those voters and the political parties who stand by Grabar-Kitarovic. Croatia is so very lucky to have a new President in Grabar-Kitarovic who knows well how to handle the twisted suggestions that try to portray her modern conservative politics as akin to nationalism, and blow them right out of the water. She is a world-class politician who has earned most of her stripes living and working in Western democracies, which cherish patriotism and unity towards the benefit of all.

But elements within those same democracies play the same hateful games with nationalism as do Croatia’s former communists who did not want an independent Croatia. So, often you may across articles by BBC, by AP, by New York Times … that enter into the same unfounded allegations of nationalism against Grabar-Kitarovic as Croatia’s former communists.

For example, in New York Times article “Croatians Elect Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic as Their First Female President” (Jan 11, 2015) Joanna Berendt and Joseph Orovic, without any reference or specification of facts they rely on, say that the victory speech given by the Croatia’s President elect on Sunday 11 January “suggested a return to the nationalistic politics that dominated Croatia in the postwar dissolution of Yugoslavia”. They quote a part of Grabar-Kitarovic victory speech “Let’s go together. A difficult job awaits us. Let’s unite. Let’s unite our patriotism, love and faith in our Croatian homeland,” and in it see nationalism with negative connotations!

One needs to wonder why Berendt and Orovic found no other to quote but Mr Dejan Jovic, who is a former advisor to Croatian president Ivo Josipovic and recently sacked from his advisory position as Croatian media reported in association with his abominable publicised views that the 1990 Croatian referendum on secession from communist Yugoslavia was “very illiberal”, a known opponent of Croatian independence and the breakup of communist Yugoslavia, to flesh out their mean-spirited and utterly unfounded nationalistic innuendo.

The authors of this NYT article lead us to believe that patriotism and sticking together for the betterment of ones nation, democracy and independence are something nationalistically negative!

 

My goodness, what might they have said about the part of US President Barrack Obama’s 2012 victory speech when he said: “Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward…It (union) moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people”?
Or is this NYT article attempting to portray a message that self-determination is not a human right of all nations?
No doubt about it: Croatia is at crossroads to either economic/existential ruin and political unrest or to unity and economic prosperity. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic wants the latter and is prepared to work hard to achieve it.

So, I would say that one of the most important tasks ahead of her, preferably within the first three months of her mandate, is to confront reality and take action. Although her presidential powers for direct action may be limited I would say there are more ways than one to achieve a goal. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: Days Of Pride And Celebration – 24 and 25 February 1990

Franjo Tudjman   Photo: http://www.tudjman.hr

Franjo Tudjman Photo: http://www.tudjman.hr

Zagreb, 24th and 25th February 1990 – the historic event occurred that would take Croatia on the path of secession from communist Yugoslavia and into an independent state that would join the democratic world.

The event was the First General Assembly of the people’s movement “Croatian Democratic Union” (HDZ) – it was held in Zagreb’s entertainment hall “Lisinski”.

Thundering applause followed almost every word spoken by dr Franjo Tudjman.
The resolution on the Croatian hymn was delivered at this event.

Our beautiful homeland,
O so fearless and gracious.
Our fathers’ ancient glory,
May you be blessed forever.
Dear, you are our only glory,
Dear, you are our only one,
Dear, we love your plains,
Dear, we love your mountains.
Sava, Drava keep on flowing,
Danube, do not lose your vigour,
Deep blue sea, tell the world,
That a Croat loves his homeland.
Whilst his fields are kissed by sunshine,
Whilst his oaks are whipped by wild winds,
Whilst his dear ones go to heaven,
Whilst his live heart beats.

Dr Franjo Tudjman was re-elected as HDZ President.

1,760 delegates from Croatia and the diaspora participated, 297 observers, 320 guests and 54 journalists. Among the guests were the US, The French, the Italian and the Soviet consuls as well as a representative from the Canadian Embassy.

This was the first inaugural assembly of a non-socialist and non-communist party in the former Yugoslavia and the first assembly of a Croatian democratic party in more than 50 years of the one-party communist totalitarianism.

25 February 1990 HDZ First General Assembly

I remember these days as if they happened yesterday! I remember the utter joy at seeing democracy in Croatia on the horizon… reaching for it. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: Ex-Communist Camp Engages Oppression In Marriage Referendum

In the name of the family referendum citizens initiative logo 2013

In the name of the family
referendum citizens initiative logo
2013

Since the dawn of human society, which includes matrimony, law and church have regulated marriage as a union between a man and a woman, until recently (but in some states/countries only).  Whether one believes that a marriage is an exclusive right to heterosexual couples, between a man and a woman, or that it is a right all, regardless of their sexual preferences and practices, including same sex couples, should enjoy, is a matter of personal and individual conscience. In some this belief is associated with their religious beliefs, while in others it comes down to pure reasoning on a human nature level, which opens the doors to accept relationships between two human beings in any form they personally consider comforting and most meaningful.

It is, therefore, a matter of personal conscience and each and every personal conscience defines our actions, and our societies.

Referendums in a democracy are sanctity, the ultimate expression of ones conscience directed at what society he/she wants to live in.  It is for that reason that referendums must be allowed to proceed without interference from the government, especially, when the desire to hold one has come from the people alone.

My intention was not to write about the impending referendum on definition of marriage in Croatia, due to be held Sunday 1 December 2013, before it is held.

But, I am placed in the situation where I simply must comment, for since the fall of Communism (1990/1991), one has never seen a Croatian politician treating a democratic expression of the electorate’s will (referendum) with such arrogance and oppression as we are seeing in the past couple of weeks.

Recent months in Croatia have seen an incredibly successful citizens’ initiative through which citizens, in view of government plans to introduce new legislation that would greatly expand the rights for gay couples and was seen as a first step towards a full-fledged legal recognition of same-sex marriages. Citizens’ groups petitioned that a referendum take place giving the citizens the opportunity to decide whether an amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman should be added to the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia.
The target to be reached in order to satisfy the benchmark to call a referendum was 450,000 signatures, but the initiative received statements of support from 750.000 citizens within just two weeks – despite systematic harassment by the government, which unsuccessfully appealed to the country’s Constitutional Court to prohibit the initiative on the grounds that it was “discriminatory”. The Constitutional Court, however, ruled that the initiative and the upcoming referendum were not in contradiction to the principle that all citizens are equal before the law.

The referendum will pose the question: “Do you agree that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman?”

The path to referendum day has been littered with governmental oppression and fear mongering yet unseen by me, anyway, in the past 20+ years in Croatia.

Mostly ex-communists govern in Croatia at this moment. Their contempt for democracy and efforts to influence votes that are a matter of personal conscience become apparent in a statement by the president Ivo Josipović, who said he had doubts “whether we need such a referendum. I will go to the referendum and vote against”.

The Minister of Social Politics and Youth, Milanka Opacic, said the referendum “ is unnecessary and we will spend almost one month’s worth of social welfare payments on it”.
Minister of foreign affairs Vesna Pusic has said she will vote no! But, she did not stop there, she actually called the referendum “terrorism against same-sex communities”. Well, Minister Pusic, since you bring the concept of terrorism into this referendum, has it occurred to you that perhaps there are members of heterosexual community who feel terrorised by the opinions on marriage held by the same-sex community that threaten their beliefs and values? You would do extremely well to apologise to Croatian voters before Sunday 1 December 2013 and allow everyone, whether gay or heterosexual to vote on the referendum question in accordance with their own conscience. The result is pure then.

The Prime Minister, Zoran Milanovic said: “There are no warm intentions in that referendum. Marriage is not jeopardised because of same sex communities but because of the way of life, mad race for money and capital … I hope this is the first and the last time such a referendum will be called …until then I hope we will bring changes …I will attend and vote against.”

In fact the whole of the government is against the referendum and they express that in concert, in public, with the obvious intent to interfere and oppress free will and free democratic expression of the people as individuals, voting according to their personal beliefs and conscience.

Just as a reminder here, in Slovenia, in 2012, a government bill to legislate for same-sex “marriages”, despite having been supported by a strong majority in Parliament, was overturned by a popular referendum. Situation with governmental anti-referendum media outpour was similar as is now in Croatia. Needless to say ex-communists who reject full democratic opportunities, without interference from government, are the culprits.

The debate around so-called “LGBT rights” evidences the growing disconnection between the ruling “elites” and the population. The debate around the so-called “LGBT” rights have seen the government place “minority” rights in front of “majority” rights to the point where the “majority” is blatantly discriminated against. We have seen it in Vukovar, where the “majority” – the victims of brutal war crimes – are discriminated against and trodden upon by the government as opposed to “minority” – Serbs. We see it now in the lead up to the referendum on marriage; to the government representatives (e.g. minister Pusic) the conscience and opinion regarding marriage of the majority is called terrorism against minority (gay members of community)!  To Pusic, expressing ones beliefs through democratic voting constitutes terrorism!

What a sad, sad time for democracy!

The government opposition has not been very vocal as to how they will vote at the referendum and perhaps this is because they respect the right of every citizen to vote in accordance with his/her conscience without the burden of public lynching of their own conscience, to which they have an absolute right, whatever form it takes: for or against the referendum question. Indeed, leader of HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union, Tomislav Karamarko, has caved under media pressure to say something and said: “ I will attend the referendum and circle ‘Yes’. Perhaps I should not be talking about this but I see the President and Mrs Pusic … are saying they’ll circle ‘No’. Why then wouldn’t I say that we, I will circle ‘Yes

Looking at all this it seems to me that the Croatian government is determined to ignore the results of the referendum if “Yes” vote wins. The Minister or Public Administration, Arsen Bauk, has defiantly announced that, in case the referendum is successful (and the introduction of same-sex marriages thus becomes impossible), a new bill will be drawn up to grant homosexual partnerships the same legal rights as marriages.

Alas, arrogance and brazen contempt for democracy are by now known to be the trademarks of the ex-communist lobby now evidently in Croatia coupled with the so-called “LGBT” rights lobby.  I say this regarding “LGBT” lobby without malice, but with the realisation that this lobby seems to have strayed into dangerous and alienating waters, which do not respect nor recognise everybody’s right to conscience and expression of that conscience regardless of its orientation within the realm of society’s nucleus that is “marriage”. This is a sad reality for much could be gained to benefit all, socially, were citizens’ lobby groups independent of government and opposition.

While “LGBT” lobby occurs in primarily NGO forms there are non-funded associations in Croatia and I am of the opinion that no group or organisation should side with government when it comes questions of voting, of referendum They, like the church, are seen as representing citizens and not the government; governments come and governments go – citizens groups remain.

The encouraging thing in all of this awful mess and awful oppression of free will, though, is that multitudes of people at large in Croatia see that it is not right for government to interfere with referendum, to try and influence conscience votes, to try and oppress people from feeling good about expressing their private and personal votes and thus shaping the society. The real civil society is awakening in Croatia, slowly, and this is encouraging for real democracy – but I fret nothing short of a “march on Bastille” will cure Croatia of communist mentality.  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

 

“BREAKING NEWS” 25 November 2013: I have just heard (after posting this article) on a Croatian HRT news program that the government of Croatia had produced over the past weekend TV spot to run on television in which each government minister recites their position on referendum question but it has pulled the plug on this. The TV spot will not run. Instead, the government representatives will appear in individual addresses on the issue as representatives of their respective political parties rather than the government. This is a significant shift in the government’s “modus operandi” and one practiced in democracies of the world. So, this is good even if the government has already done much damage in democratic process on referendum issue. One wonders whether an EU lobby group has pulled them into line?!

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