General Zeljko Glasnovic’s Vote Averts Dissolution Of Croatian Parliament

 

Gordan Jandrokovic (L)
Andrej Plenkovic (R)
Photo: Nah

In developed democracies it’s normal, in fact it’s expected for any government that does not command a majority in the parliament to do deals and make concessions. There’s nothing “dodgy” about it – it is a reality of the political system that has in its nucleus benefits for the people who vote politicians into the parliament. But as politics of deception would have it, Croatia’s Social Democrat led opposition and the now defunct MOST wing of independents that were coalition partners in government attempted Friday 5th May to convince the Croatian public that making deals for the betterment of people’s lives was unacceptable, even fraught with unparliamentary shoddiness, illegalities and personal gains!

It is a blessing that many people in Croatia recognise the fact that lobbying on behalf of the constituency is in fact the desirable product of a democratic system and order and see the Social Democrats’ and MOST’s cries in parliament last Friday as nothing more than a losers’ cry. Indeed, the oppositions’ cries in parliament Friday 5th May were nothing more than peddling of populist rhetoric all day long in order to confuse the people and fuel outrage that has no truth-based standing.

Thankfully, clear policies for the betterment of people’s lives did shine through in the parliament in Zagreb, Friday 5th May. The focus of those policies has everything to do with mitigating or avoiding damaging economic consequences that would arise in the event of a collapse of government at the time when political stability is needed.

Mid last week Croatia’s HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union led government was on the verge of a second collapse with a mere six months’ period and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic found himself in the grips of last ditch efforts to avert the collapse and dissolution of the current Parliament. A political crisis intensified Thursday 4 May and the likelihood of of parliament dissolution followed bysnap general elections hovered dangerously close as HDZ appeared to struggle in finding enough fresh parliamentary partners who would support the election of a new Speaker after Bozo Petrov, of HDZ’s junior partner in coalition government -MOST, resigned and MOST was out of the picture. Friday 5 May arrived and HDZ had the parliamentary majority that would ensure the election of the new Speaker, Gordan Jandrokovic and a collapse averted. HDZ

General Zeljko Glasnovic,
Member of Croatian Parliament
for Croats Living Abroad/ Diaspora
Photo: Goran Mehkek/Cropix

The independent MP General Zeljko Glasnovic provided Friday 5 May the crucial vote that has enabled the election of HDZ’s Gordan Jandrokovic as new Speaker. On the same day Glasnovic had published on his Facebook page the demands he had put forward to the government as a deal for his supporting vote. The demands are in line with Glasnovic’s program as MP and included the payment of debts owed to former HVO (Croatian Defence Council) veterans of 1990’s war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, speeding up the parliamentary process the law on Croatian Homeland War veterans, that a plenary meeting be held as soon as possible on issues pertaining to the Croatian diaspora (including Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina) encompassing the scrapping of unnecessary bureaucracy, the speeding up of collating a list of all Croats living in the diaspora, the speeding up/shortening of citizenship process for Croats living abroad, the solving of double-taxation problem on foreign pensions and the development of an action plan to include business people from the diaspora along with legislating for it. His demands met with agreement and the document of demands was signed by the Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, the minister for veterans affairs Tomo Medved and the state secretary of ministry of foreign affairs Zdravka Busic.

As indicated above Glasnovic’s demands or bases for negotiating his support in order to avert parliament’s dissolution were met with opposition’s labelling in terms of “influence trading” and Glasnovic was faced with vicious, populist and unfounded attacks hours upon hours in the parliament. But, the day was won and new Speaker elected.

The significance of these events that ensued in the Croatian parliament goes beyond the mere saving of the parliament from dissolution at times when the economy needs stability and many livelihoods are in jeopardy due to failing companies and employment. The significance of the events lies also in that it demonstrated, for all that would look and see, a clear sign that authoritarian rule is in fact, albeit slow, in clear decay, nevertheless, and democratic transition is kicking in all the more. The lobby for constituency benefits is in fact what parliament and democracy are about. Strategic, positive, interactions between the constituency needs, the parliamentary representative and the parliament are abundantly clear in the case of General Glasnovic’s support vote last Friday.

Minority governments are becoming frequent in Croatia as they are elsewhere in the world. Because a minority removes temporal certainty from the picture, all of the essential political roles of government and opposition are speeded up, and the need for electoral readiness replaces certainty and predictability. All parties are in play all the time, and politics and short-term positioning are in the ascendant, because no one knows how long the parliament will last. And virtually every issue ” from the substantive to the minuscule ” becomes an opportunity for short-term partisan advantage.

 

What also results is a confrontation within the basic principles of a democratic system: the government’s “right to govern” and the official opposition’s ”duty to oppose.” No one would deny the right of a minority government to govern; reality demands it. Similarly, no one would gainsay the need for the official opposition to develop its plan for an alternate government. But all three groups ” the government, the official opposition and the other parties and independents ” are subject to another key consideration. That consideration is how to read the public’s take on when the next election ceases to be excessive and unnecessary and becomes an acceptable and logical outcome of a minority having run its course.

Hence we come to the need to ”make Parliament work,” which is a constant of minorities and also an essential. If the various parties never find ways to put some water in their wine, every minority would fall on the presentation of its first Throne Speech or first budget, and we would literally have an election every year until someone scored a majority.

What is different about the current round in Croatia’s parliament is that the opposition in effect ceded their “duty to oppose” aspect by feeding unfounded, populist and deceiving attacks upon a member of the parliament (Glasnovic) and the government for doing their job and duty. Ina Vukic

Croatia: Will The Door To New Government Be Kicked Open Or …

 

New Croatian Parliament inaugural meeting 14 October 2016 (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

New Croatian Parliament
inaugural meeting 14 October 2016
(AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

I’m bursting with anticipation and curiosity waiting to hear whether Dr Zlatko Hasanbegovic will continue as minister for culture in the new Andrej Plenkovic led government of Croatia. Smaller parties and independents had huddled around HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) and its leader Andrej Plenkovic with relative ease and a rather miraculous speed to support HDZ minority government receive the needed parliamentary majority goodwill for forming a government. But that government, i.e. the make-up of the government Cabinet (Ministers) is still a big enigma. It has remained an enigma even though the new Croatian Parliament had been convened and officially constituted on Friday 14 October 2014, with Bozo Petrov (leader of MOST/Bridge of independent lists as Speaker and HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union’s Miljan Brkic, Gordan Jandrokovic and outgoing Speaker Zeljko Reiner as deputy Speakers of the new parliament). Not even an inkling, yet, as to which of the elected members will be filling the all-important roles of government ministers. We are reassured, however, that the persons to serve as ministers in the new government will be announced during the coming week.

“They” do say that good things come to those who wait. I shall hold destiny responsible to deliver on this.

Andrej Plenkovic Croatia's Prime Minister designate Announces restructure of new government in parliament Friday 14 October 2016 Photo: screenshot HRT news

Andrej Plenkovic Croatia’s Prime Minister designate
Announces restructure of new government
in parliament Friday 14 October 2016
Photo: screenshot HRT news

 

Prime Minister designate, Andrej Plenkovic, has – amidst copious amounts of media speculation regarding who will and who will not get to serve as minister in his government – made it publicly clear last week that “I am the PM designate and nobody will determine the appointment of ministers,” (but me). Of course, it’s a given that a PM must choose those people to serve as members of his/her government executive team he or she can best work with in order to achieve outcomes from the government’s set goals or program. The top goal for any government is to serve and promote national interests and Croatian national interests at this stage are significantly marked by the need to rid the country of the remnants of the unproductive and undemocratic practices still present due to habits instilled by the former communist regime of Yugoslavia.

Things appear to be looking up in this sense as we learn that the delay in naming future government ministers may well be associated with the restructure of public administration and government being decided upon and announced. I.e., as announced by Plenkovic last Friday night Croatia is to have 19 out of 20 current ministries but a new ministry for demographics, family, the youth and social politics to be created from existing set ups with view to thrust into the front lines the solving of the falling birth rate and increasing emigration. To achieve a lesser number of ministries functions of some previous ones have been merged into new ones (merger into one ministry of economic, business and trade portfolios; the return to ministry of Croatia Veterans as opposed to the current veterans affairs, etc.) There will also be six instead of four Central government offices. State Secretaries will replace the current deputy-minister positions and the role of Assistant to the minister will in time transition into Head of Administration and will be filled via public advertising and competition, which in essence represents a very significant positive step in securing incumbents of important public administration position on the basis of merit (not political affiliation); the Heads of Administration will have the status of Servants (public servants), which means that after ceasing to work in that position the incumbent would not enjoy extended remuneration as assistants to ministers receive now.

After Social Democrats’ representative suggested that the new structure will mean increased number of central bodies, thus suggesting increased government spending, Andrej Plenkovic replied: “There’s no intention to increase administration or expenses but the key intention is in increased rationalisation, increased outputs and de-politicisation and professionalisation of public administration,” reports HRT news.

During this time of delay in naming the ministers of the new government HDZ and its leaders would do well in heeding the words and warnings regarding Croatian priority national interests contained in the statement released Saturday 15 October 2015 by the Croatian Bishops’ Conference. Croatian Bishops have called for the Croatian people and society to unity and maturity so that it would have the strength to endure the newly staged attempts in creating myths and in the spreading of lies. That is not a call to “return to the past”, but a motivation and a wish to free ourselves from the burden and the weights from the past that place a burden upon our today and blur our vision for the future, emphasised the Bishops’ statement.

Croatian Bishops' Conference 15 October 2016 Photo: Hrvatska biskupska konferencija

Croatian Bishops’ Conference
15 October 2016
Photo: Hrvatska biskupska konferencija

The Bishops consider the current regard towards the victims of the communist regime, especially when it comes to mass graves and the remains of those that perished, in Croatia and in other places, especially in Slovenia, expressed by the relevant Croatian organisations and by the Croatian state generally as unacceptable and damaging,” says the Bishops’ statement in which Croatian Bishops emphasise that the upgrading of Greater Serbia myths neglects the suffering of the Croatian population during the Homeland War, the destruction of property…and the inadequate acknowledgement of Croatian veterans in the creation of freedom and independence. The Bishops call upon the appropriate Croatian government bodies to engage the necessary effort in order to place a light upon the truth of Jasenovac camps as well as upon the post-WWII sufferings. With this, the victims would receive due respect and the truth will usher in more peace into the families whose members have suffered…Bishops say.

 

Bozo Patrov Speaker of Croatian Parliament Photo: N1

Bozo Patrov
Speaker of Croatian Parliament
Photo: N1

It is a fact that Yugoslav communists who call themselves “the liberators” had from 1945 destroyed the Croatian civil society and committed the crime of murdering the country’s intelligence (the part that was not pro-communist). Hence, hundreds of priests, writers, journalists, publicists, cultural and social and political elites, engineers, lawyers, teachers etc. were liquidated, while others fled the country in order to escape sure death. The communists knew well that their success in ruling the people  depended heavily on getting rid of the part of the country’s intelligentsia that was against communism. In modern Croatia, stripping Croatia of its most deserving son for its independence and democracy – Franjo Tudjman – had been a purposefully vilifying agenda for several years before Tudjmans death and after his death from 2000 when former communists’ win of government as well as Stjepan Mesic’s win of the country’s presidency followed. The official cultural pursuits or the ministry of culture under the left and centre-left leadership had played a large part in making sure that the condemnation of communist crimes does not pick up ground in any significant measure within the Croatian society. Ministry of culture has been and is a government body through which all publications, books, films, cultural associations etc must go in order to see the light of day. Thankfully, in his short role as culture minister of Croatia’s short-lived previous government Zlatko Hasanbegovic had commenced the process of bringing balance into the ministry’s (the society’s) pursuits of Croatian truth, which of course meant that communist crimes needed to become an agenda to be openly and without reservations dealt with on the basis of facts and truth. This move of course earned him terrible blows and branded him as ultra-nationalist, Ustashe, fascist, revisionist …

 

In other words, within six months of being Croatia’s minister for culture Hasanbegovic had declared his resistance to the cultural hegemony, or upon the dominant influence the communist Yugoslav left side of Croatia’s political playing field had wielded since late 1990’s when the so-called “detudjmanisation” commenced. Because of this, Hasanbegovic had been a target of terrible attacks within Croatia and beyond – staged and implemented by former communists and their mates, including the head of Istrael’s branch of Simon Wiesenthal Centre – filled with hateful lies.

From left: Miljan Brkic, Gordan Jandrokovic, Zeljko Reiner HDZ's deputies of Croatian Parliament Will these men manage to keep in check the small-town-mayor- turned-speaker-of-parliament Bozo Petrov if once again he goes rogue against government leadership? Photo: Patrik Macek/Pixsell

From left: Miljan Brkic, Gordan Jandrokovic, Zeljko Reiner
HDZ’s deputies of Croatian Parliament
Will these men manage to keep in check
the small-town-mayor-
turned-speaker-of-parliament
Bozo Petrov if once again he goes rogue against government leadership?
Photo: Patrik Macek/Pixsell

Although Andrej Plenkovic as designated PM has made it abundantly clear that he will not be influenced by anyone’s pressure in naming the ministers of his government and that the ministers will be those persons he himself chooses one can only pray and hope that his choice for culture minister is Zlatko Hasanbegovic. Having demonstrated some good insight and analysis skills so far one can only trust that Plenkovic has come to a realisation that by not naming Hasanbegovic as minister also means that he is joining the posse of liars against Hasanbegovic and also means joining the posse of anti-Croatian propaganda. Plenkovic’s move in the next couple of days will be interesting to watch because all eyes in Croatia and beyond seem fixed upon this very issue of whether Hasanbegovic is to continue as culture minister. If he does appoint Hasanbegovic then Croatia has a new lease of life for positive moves towards ridding Croatian public administration and associated processes of communist regime’s progress-stifling remnants. If he does not appoint Hasanbegovic then Croatia’s reputation and daily reality are at a terrible loss and suffer a damaging setback in moving forward from the burdens of history that must be cleared – not swept under the carpet. Not naming Hasanbegovic as minister will also mean that Plenkovic either directly or vicariously agrees with the false allegations of neo-fascism/revisionism made against Hasanbegovic and Croatia. And so I wonder if the imminent announcement of new government ministers will feel like the door has just been kicked open (with unexpected and niggling surprises) or that it has just been opened – with the right mix of people eloquently showing through. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: A New Seemingly Reluctant Government Alliance

From left: Andrej Plenkovic, Prime Minister designate Gordan Jandrokovic, Secretary HDZ Photo:Darko Bandic/AP

From left: Andrej Plenkovic, Prime Minister designate
Gordan Jandrokovic, Secretary HDZ
Photo:Darko Bandic/AP

The relatively quick clamping together of seemingly partially jumbled-up support to Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ to form a new government led by Andrej PLenkovic is nothing short of miraculous. Whether this was the energising effect of Andrej Plenkovic’s firm resolve to become the PM that set the mood for seemingly smooth negotiations that occurred during past three weeks to form a government, or whether it was that everyone including the minor parties and independents and ethnic minorities’ representatives had become to fear the effects of their own actions in ousting the former government – hence, fearing same could happen to them, is worth keeping an eye on. As smooth as negotiations appeared, certain reluctance did show on several negotiating faces. I did in one of my previous articles say that I thought the resolve and strength of the resolve to be the PM expressed by Plenkovic could well prove a positive force for the negotiations process for new government. However, I also thought that negotiations would be tricky for HDZ and particularly so given the oddball coalitions among various parties in elections.

Somehow the feeling prevailed that negotiations weren’t tricky after all, that quite a few minor parties or independents were quite happy to stand in a queue and wait their turn to talk to Plenkovic and HDZ and offer support. There was some sheepishness and reluctance showing for the support given to HDZ on quite a few faces, though. This perhaps can be explained by the fact that many now supporting HDZ carried strong animosity against the same HDZ only a couple of months ago and find it difficult to explain/justify their change of heart to the public or simply see that a government must function at whatever cost or everyone in parliament is out of a job, themselves included.

Andrej Plenkovic, HDZ, managed to harness 30 signatures of support to form government and with their 61 HDZ has now a 91-seat (out of 151) strong support to govern Croatia. So, why aren’t there more cheers among those 30 supporters than what we saw on their faces and rather forlorn eyes since Monday? 14 signatures from Most/Bridge coalition led by Bozo Petrov are said to be HDZ’s preferred partner in government and yet the same people dug deep pits to bury the former HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko on basis of supporting trumped up allegations of conflict of interests because of his wife’s business deals. This time around, MOST/Bridge has even agreed to share the Speaker of Parliament position with HDZ – it will be represented by the MOST alliance for the first two years and then by the HDZ for the second two-year term,” Andrej Plenkovic said.

Then there are 7 of the 8 ethnic minority representatives noticeably wrestling their way in to be in on the game of the new government, even if it was obvious they were eating their own words that sent Tomislav Karamarko and the previous HDZ led government onto the scrap heap. The stench of “backroom” deals particularly with Milorad Pupovac (a leader of Serb minority) and Furio Radin (leader of Italian minority) intoxicated the air many breathed in. Pupovac threatened not to have anything to do with HDZ government if Zlatko Hasanbegovic continues as its minister and then within a day all this was forgotten and Pupovac kept saying that he trusted Plenkovic and whatever his decision will be, he (Pupovac) will respect it. We now need to wait and see whether Hasanbegovic (vilified wrongfully as ultra-nationalist and fascist because he wants justice for victims of communist crimes by many including Pupovac) will remain culture minister or not; whether Pupovac’s turnaround into a meek-and-mild pro-HDZ lamb has come about through some backroom deals to do with Hasanbegovic. Then Furio Radin of the Italian minority was on the same tracks as Pupovac but has suddenly turned a long gloomy face that wants to see what HDZ will do with their “inclusion” – you see, Radin likes inclusion it seems, as if it’s a completely new desirable concept. As if there had been no inclusion occurring in Croatian society at all. Oh dear, what a waste of political space these leaders occupy.

Then, the past three weeks of negotiations to form new government saw the Croatian Peasant Party/ HSS with its 5 seats doing somersaults, backflips, and all the contortions of a trapeze artist in order to weasel out of its formerly unwavering strong coalition with centre-left Social Democrats (HDZ’s staunch enemy) and start stroking down the conservative HDZ’s winning streaks. First it was said they’d only give HDZ government 100 days of benefit of their support and then withdraw it and go back into a fierce opposition, and now, well it seems HSS feels cozy tagging behind HDZ for as long as necessary for the HSS to actually survive as a political party with its current leadership. And then Milan Bandic (current Zagreb mayor and a person desirous of a prime minister-ship mandate) and his party’s 3 seats, naturally left-leaning lot, are also supporting HDZ for government. So, all in all the full circle of minority government and its support in Croatia could well end up one motley crew where the old saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” comes alive.

While conservative HDZ was a thorn in the eye of many of these coalition partners only one month ago it all looks now as though it’s hip to be with HDZ once again. So why aren’t there more smiling faces around? There is a feeling that the coalition is rather brittle and lacks confidence and strength – as though the minor partners are putting HDZ to the test and if test not passed Croatia could see more of what occurred in June this year with the toppling of the previous HDZ-led government. Generally, if one paid attention there was reluctance and lack of vigour on the leading faces of HDZ’s partners (MOST/Bridge, Ethnic Minorities, HSS …) when they spoke of their support of HDZ for new government. Which made me think that the support came at a cost. I hope that the cost, if it exists, will not be detrimental to the Croatian national being.
HDZ has yet to put out the new government’s program and given the significant support in numbers it has achieved without a program, things are looking up for Andrej Plenkovic. Well done.

Economy, jobs, legal security and demographic renewal will be the new government’s priorities,” Plenkovic told reporters after receiving the nomination. “Together with our partners, we will also work on creating an inclusive, tolerant society.”

 

Nothing we haven’t heard before but the fact that it was Plenkovic who said it this time, rather than anybody else, could make all the difference. The prospect of a new government led by Plenkovic may end political turmoil that has prevailed since the June collapse of the previous government, also composed of HDZ and Bridge, in a conflict-of-interest scandal surrounding former HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko. The cabinet’s collapse delayed a planned administrative overhaul and threatened to impede recovery from the longest recession on record in Croatia.

Under Plenkovic’s leadership, HDZ has pledged to cut income and value added taxes/GST. Plenkovic has also vowed to reduce public debt, which reached 87% of gross domestic product.

Whether reluctant or not the support Andrej Plenkovic received for form a government is amazing – he will “control” almost two-thirds of the parliament and such support has not been seen in Croatia since 1990’s and year 2000. This would seem to dictate that he must achieve or be seen as achieving most iof the needed reforms within his first three to six months in office. If he does not achieve this then, given that 2017 is the year of local government elections in Croatia, HDZ stands to lose ground across Croatia. The likely key to Plenkovic’s success will be his relationship with MOST/Bridge’s Bozo Petrov and one hopes it will not deteriorate as it did in the previous government. But Plenkovic has another ace up his sleeve – if Petrov gets difficult there are always the other minor parties or representatives in the HDZ support mix that can save a day or two before its government slips back into instability.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic hands new prime minister mandate to Andrej PLenkovic Croatia 10 October 2016 Photo: office of president of Croatia

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
hands new prime minister mandate to
Andrej Plenkovic
Croatia 10 October 2016
Photo: office of president of Croatia

 

A month to the day since September elections Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic appointed Monday 10 October Andrej Plenkovic of the conservative Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ prime minister designate, setting the stage for a new government to be named within a week, for sure. A new government that will end months of uncertainty and staged scandals that threatened to undermine economic recovery.

We all want the new government to be stable, constructive and efficient,” said President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic. “I believe we are entering a new phase of political life … when we will start dealing with important existential issues.”

All that Plenkovic has promised his government will do has been promised before. The parliament is more or less made up of same people, give or take a dozen or so new faces, but nothing that is truly significant. So it must be that the will to cooperate by minor parties and independents is actually quite heavily associated this time to HDZ leader Andrej Plenkovic and not to HDZ as party. The risk of that for HDZ is that if Plenkovic does not deliver in the eyes of the conservative voters it, the party, is likely to suffer enormous exodus of voter support at next elections; and perhaps a new conservative stronghold will emerge on the political map of Croatia. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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