Croatia: Staged Political Crisis Undercutting Needed Rhythm For Reforms

Left: Tomislav Karamarko, First Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia Centre: Tihomir Oreskovic, Croatia's Prime Minister Right: Bozo Petrov, Croatia's Deputy Prime Minister

Left: Tomislav Karamarko, First Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia
Centre: Tihomir Oreskovic, Croatia’s Prime Minister
Right: Bozo Petrov, Croatia’s Deputy Prime Minister

Instead of seeing a gradual settling of politically antagonistic spirits, left over from public spaces of pre-election and elections moods, which usually makes the job of new government’s ushering in the desperately needed reforms that would bolster and aid positive economic change and reduction of the crippling foreign debt easier, the end of May 2016 marks a full four months of a staged seemingly crippling political crisis that makes the work of the government extremely difficult and often impossible. The staged political crisis aided by a great deal of bias and fueling of scandals in the media is visibly keeping the coalition government on its toes and vigilant; ready to pounce back with replies to malicious accusations and innuendoes that cannot and should not wait a reply. It seems like every day is a new scandal directed at the government and the media readily picks up on these regardless of where facts or truth stand.

 

For three weeks in May the Parliament sittings had been unable to vote on new legislation due to lack of quorum. From day one of this new coalition government (conservative centre right HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union and independent political force MOST) Croatia has constantly been bombarded with ever new scandals originating from the centre left that was previously in government, former communists but today’s Zoran Milanovic led Social Democrats, who hold that they should be the ones heading the government even if they won less seats than HDZ in the last elections.

The first staged scandals had to do with the proliferation of lies and half-truths regarding minister of culture Zlatko Hasanbegovic who was labeled a fascist and a Nazi, and Croatia under the new government labeled as a country that is seeing a renewal of (WWII) fascism.  Vicious pressure for the government to rid itself of Hasanbegovic never ceases to this day even if the man himself has done nothing wrong, but – hey – he is strong on wielding justice for victims of communist crimes and that is – evidently – a “No, No” for ex-communists and their contemporary “compadres”. Then soon came the resignation of the new veterans’ affairs minister under the pressure of having registered a shed, in which he does not live, as his residence.
Then came an attack against education minister Predrag Suster regarding his expressed stands on evolution Vs creation.

Then came the viciously recriminating divisions and scandals regarding the Holocaust victims’ memorials at Jasenovac and the memorials for the victims of communist crimes at Bleiburg.

 

Then came the inability of the Parliament to vote on legislation due to lack of quorum that lingered on for three weeks or longer. Then the latest is Social Democrat opposition pressure to slot in a vote of no confidence in the parliament against First Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko (HDZ) – citing conflict of interest because reportedly his wife’s private business previously had dealings with PR consultant for Hungary’s oil company MOL that holds control over Croatia’s INA company and over which control Croatia’s former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader is currently in court answering to corruption charges and bribery. Even though Karamarko has instigated that a formal investigation be held into whether he acted with conflict of interests, and this is said to happen inside coming two or three weeks, the Social Democrat opposition still wants the parliament to vote on no-confidence motions on the basis of conflict of interests (which has not been proven so far and which Karamarko denies); well, communists never bothered with due process such as court hearings or other official testing of evidence, so why would they (Social Democrats) start now! Innuendos and bullying an intimidation served well their political agenda under communist Yugoslavia!

 

Tension in the government coalition is portrayed in the media as growing every day despite the admirable calm and composure with which members of the government try to address the scandals. But, the detailed announcements of expected reforms did take a seemingly long time to surface. There is talk of changes in government and the majority in Parliament – even early elections. Conflicts are on several levels and the needed reforms remain the same. Ironically – ONE MAY BE TEMPTED TO SAY – this coalition came to power with strong promise of reforms, but, instead what we are seeing now is that the coalition led by HDZ is demonstrating exactly what, during election campaign, the Social Democrats said HDZ was: that HDZ was a corrupt political party and that (given SDP started labeling HDZ as fascist prior to election campaigns) under Social Democrats there would be no going back to the old ways – meaning WWII Ustashi ways/fascist ways.

 

HDZ is neither corrupt nor fascist but SDP is certainly working overtime domestically and internationally to make it appear so. Well, if SDP is counting to turn the voter tides towards it as it prepares to wave the “I told you so” finger at the public, hoping to achieve a mass amnesia in the public regarding its own destructive and corrupt government, and win a comfortable majority at next elections, it has not got much prospect.

 

 

Make no mistake – former communists, Social Democrats, have gone out of their way to create images of the HDZ led government to fit exactly the picture it painted of it during election campaign. No naturally occurring irony, therefore – it’s all a thoroughly planned stage with view to disabling the government in efforts to prove it incompetent! Furthermore, it’s all making Croatia appear as an intolerant society under the conservative government, when in fact the intolerant ones are the left-siders especially when it comes to not tolerating any attempt to bring about justice for victims of communist crimes.

 

The government is offering some 60 reforms, which encompass a wide spectrum of areas and matters – all are most relevant to the betterment of Croatia’s future: public administration, job growth, privatization of state owned companies, reduction of foreign debt… The main measures are aimed at macroeconomic stability and fiscal sustainability. Lowering of public debt is the main priority announced by Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic and Finance Minister Zdravko Maric. A reform in public procurement, higher visibility of public sector with government offices restructuring, Internet-based business dealings and technological upgrade are due. With the European Commission’s most recent lowering of Croatia’s 2016 GDP growth forecast to 1.8% and announced Croatian government’s reforms last week, Croatia has a good chance of coming out of this slippery slide served  upon its government by the nasty “Reds”.

 

 

If the government stays firm on its path of reform and positive results start showing, then all the political scandals of the world cannot shake its foundations or threaten its endurance. The way things may appear now, though, is that the government will not survive because of the constant barrage of political scandals that create an impression of a political crisis looming due to some incapacity (and moral fallacy) of the government. Whether new elections or re-stacking of the parliamentary majority/coalition actually occur in the relatively new future continues to depend on the government’s resolve not to be distracted from the job it said it would do if elected. That is easier said than done, but be that as it may – staying focused on reform results is most important. Everything else, even the hardest or the most painful of attacks, fall by the wayside when good reform results end up in citizens’ pockets. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. Syd)

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