Dr Jure Burić – An Interview: “Croatians will continue paying a heavy price until lustration happens!”

Interview by Ina Vukic

October this year will mark 30 years since the beginning of the siege of Dubrovnik and its surroundings and the bombing of its walls and vital structures, which culminated on 6 December 1991; the deaths of civilians and soldiers. You were the war commissioner of the Republic of Croatia at the time when the Yugoslav Chetnik aggression indiscriminately hit the city and its people with its murderous weapons and intentions. How much do you vividly remember those days of the attack on Dubrovnik, and can you tell us what was going through your mind the most at that time?

In summer of 1991 a decision was made by the Municipal Council of the City of Dubrovnik, in fact the then Municipality of Dubrovnik to accept and take in refugees from Vukovar. Our people from Vukovar were offered accommodation and holidays in all our hotels. Other places by the sea did the same, offering free accommodation to a certain number of refugees for a certain period of time. At my suggestion, which was unanimously accepted (I was then leading “social” matters on the Council), we offered all refugees from Vukovar accommodation for an unlimited number of people and for an unlimited period of time – not knowing that we, ourselves, would soon become refugees, and our citizens of Vukovar were shelled once again!

All resources from the Red Cross, Caritas, hotels, associations, … were made available and after the public announcement, we prepared for the reception of numerous refugees. Very soon, several thousand of unfortunate people found themselves in Dubrovnik. We selflessly wanted to help them in their suffering and alleviate the sad fact that their husbands, fathers, brothers, relatives … remained in their city defending it and losing their lives for it.

How profoundly distressing were the testimonies of women and children who escaped from the hell of war and found refuge with us. We organised swimming lessons for them, all kinds of events, sports competitions, to try to at least alleviate a little bit their grief for their fathers and their city. We regularly followed the events in Vukovar and found ourselves slowly preparing for the defence of our city – in case it became necessary.

One part of our people based their defence strategy on the fact that the City would not be attacked (after all, who would dare attacking the Pearl of the World and the UNESCO-protected city!). One part of our people, including myself, based their defence strategy on another fact and that was that our neighbours were not so smart and that there would be attacks.

Fear and unrest were felt in the City. An interesting event took place at a larger gathering (a full cinema hall right in the centre of the old town). Speakers lined up and each in their own way “analysed the situation” and fearing the fate of Vukovar. At one point of such fear and uncertainty, my compatriot from Velja Međa-Andrija Oberan, came up to the podium.

What will he say now – I’m really interested, I thought.

And Oberan began:

‘My people, I came to this city in torn trousers twenty years ago – following my belly for bread. I didn’t really have much schooling and I applied for work on a building site. The first morning I saw people around me making some agreement between them and collecting money, so I asked what it was about and if I could participate as well?’ ‘You can, Vlach,’ they told me. ‘We are collecting money for brunch’! ‘And what is a brunch?’

‘Well, it’s something like your breakfast, you Vlach.’

‘Okay, here’s the money, and what will be for that brunch’

‘White kidneys,’ they replied.

After a while, a car comes in and a large pot was taken out of the trunk, and I approached to see what the white kidneys were! I lift the lid and see – well, my people, these are testicles!

Now, whoever has balls, let him not be afraid of war, and who has white kidneys – I can’t help him! – That was the shortest and best speech I heard in those times!

Bombing of Dubrovnik, December 1991

In your opinion, what was your role in the fight for freedom, for the independence of Croatia?

It was felt that the war would not bypass us either. The Government of the Republic of Croatia had appointed me as the “War Commissioner for Southern Croatia” – one of six War Commissioners in the country!

And? On October 1, 1991, in the early morning hours, the first grenade fell on Dubrovnik.

On the same date, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) began with the ritual burning of my birth house in Ravno (Herzegovina), which was, of course, thoroughly looted by Serbs and Montenegrins before that. As it was then – so it is today – unrestored and without a roof. However, “journalists” have long ago renovated it and luxuriously equipped it – so much about our objective “journalism”!

So that is the date of the beginning of the war in BiH, and not the few months later as Alija Izetbegović said – when the shelling of Sarajevo began!

It is interesting that in Dubrovnik, the first victim of the Serbian grenades was one

honest and good man in his home Miličević- a Serb! Civilian of course!

Were the people around you, and you, fully committed to the goal of Croatian independence?

In all this difficult time of hopelessness, there was still hope. We trusted our President Franjo Tudjman and our brave defenders. We knew that we would defend and organise our Homeland in the way that befits a Croatian person. In a report for HTV, I told the deceitful and inconsistent world: with your eyes on the Croats, you remain deaf and blind and dumb, but know that these tortured old men and hungry children will not give you peace, and the public will condemn you that you could have prevented this war – and you did not!”

And a message to the aggressors – Serbs and Montenegrins:

“When you think that you killed the last man from the ruins, the hand of the Croatian defender will be raised, and he will spoil your plans”!

How would you describe the Croatian spirit of the 1990’s?

The Croatian spirit in those difficult times was constant, strong, unbreakable. It drew its strength from the fact that we were getting stronger every day and increasingly armed despite the will of the world. Thomson’s “Čavoglave” was sung by both old and young, fuelled by strength and hope for our better tomorrow in togetherness. We extended a hand of reconciliation to our former persecutors, following President Tudjman’s advice that we must all be one, because that is the only recipe for success.

I caved in, inside, and extended my hand to the man whose hand beat my late friend Bruno Busic, because he was now a true Croatian defender who was ashamed of his unreasonable act. And everything somehow “was in tune” until the former communists, seeing that nothing bad would happen to them, got stronger.

Then they spat on that outstretched hand, and they still spit on it today.

How would you describe the Croatian spirit of today?

I wrote this poem at the time of the strongest Serbo-Chetnik and Montenegrin aggression against Croatia, when the “Red Army Barracks” threatened Osijek, and General Branimir Glavas awakened hope, when they killed Vukovar and the heroic defenders led by General Blago Zadro, when they destroyed Dubrovnik … while General Mirko Norac defended Gospić, when the five-pointed star polluted our Blue Adriatic …… autumn 1991.

THE SAME MESSAGE WAS VALID THEN AND IS VALID TODAY !!! – TO US AND TO THEM!

WE ARE ALL READY FOR CROATIA!

When at dawn the first ray,

Caresses the blue sea

And it illuminates your rivers

The golden fields of your mountain

When it awakes the Lika wolf

Herceg Bosna angry snake

And a pirate from the Neretva

Let them in if they can.

Vucedol dove

Zrinjski Castle, Senj Tower

Sinj Alkar calls the Fortress

If they are allowed, let them in

From Velebit the fairy is calling

I greet you, Dubrovnik

Beautiful Istria and the Littoral

Slavonia and Zagorje

Posavina, Dalmatia

Wake them all up

He sang a song of paradise

We are all READY FOR CROATIA!

You were the County Prefect (Župan) and you were a member of the Croatian Parliament, and as far as I remember, among other important things, you once asked for the termination of cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, at least temporarily. Your request was not implemented, can you tell us something about that?

I served as the first prefect (župan) of Dubrovnik-Neretva County – honourably and responsibly trying to respect all people, and to those from the international community who visited me very often and insisted on reconciliation with the aggressor, I made clear what kind of reconciliation was possible.

I would tell them that, when the time came, Croats would forgive, but know that they will never forgive themselves if they allow something similar happen to them in the future.

On one occasion I asked them if they had heard of the “school of democracy” in Dubrovnik founded at the very beginning of the war. Of course they had not heard of it, and they remained amazed. Then I told them – on the day when the first grenade fell on Dubrovnik, we founded that school and we were professors, not students, because there were Serbs in the same shelter with us – probably relatives of those who sent us those grenades, and that not a hair fell from their heads, while their property remained intact. Find me just one example of such warfare in the whole world?!

And when they told me that they were worried about how the Serbs from Trebinje would feel one day on Stradun (Main street in Dubrovnik), I answered them very vividly: I guarantee you much better and more comfortably than the Germans in Paris ten years after the end of the Second World War!

This is where communication would usually end, and I would report it to my President Tudjman at the earliest opportunity – just in case. The President would not be angry with me – on the contrary, he was glad that someone could say something, and he for understandable reasons could not.

Dubrovnik, December 1991

You were an important member of HDZ Party from its conception until 2018, when you withdrew from membership, and the Croatian media published, among other things, one of your messages to HDZ, which read “You have become a ‘spiritual Chernobyl’ in the Croatian people.” Please tell us something about your decision to leave the party into whose fabric you been woven for decades.

In those times I couldn’t even dream that the Cyrillic alphabet would return to Vukovar, that we will ratify the Istanbul Convention, because of which I withdrew from the HDZ party in 2018. That we would silently send our generals to The Hague, believing that this court will be fair! But in fact, The Hague was for The Hague! By joining the HDS (Croatian National Assembly – that was its official name at the time), I only continued to fight for the national interests of my people.

In the meantime, the STATE one got lost?! Why? Realising all the ugliness of the court in The Hague, I asked for the termination of cooperation with such a court. I also demanded a ban on the introduction of the Cyrillic alphabet in two cities in Croatia – Knin and Vukovar, because of all the evil that had happened to the Croatian man in those cities. Unsuccessful of course.

This is what I wrote to the HDZ leadership in 2018 as my resignation from membership:

“I would like to be wrong, but I already see that the Istanbul Convention will be ratified by the Croatian National Parliament, and so that I do not wait for this joke to play out, which in fact is a tragedy – I am honestly sad that you forced me to this act, I have decided:

I, Jure Burić, a retired doctor and politician, and my wife Ljiljana Burić, a proud Croatian mother of five of our children with an address in Dubrovnik, no longer want to be members of the HDZ party.

We do not want to be your co-chairs, because you are no longer followers of its founder, Dr. Franjo Tudjman.

I came into politics from the position of head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Cervicofacial Surgery at the Hospital in Dubrovnik.

While the late President was still alive, I performed many honourable duties in the Croatian state. First as a War Commissioner (one of six in Croatia) for Southern Dalmatia, then the chief of war ambulance for the same area, the first mayor of Dubrovnik-Neretva and finally a representative in the Croatian State Parliament – that’s what Parliament used to be called!

We leave the party because we are

Ashamed of

your arrogance,

your hypocrisy,

your contempt,

your inconsistencies,

your servitude,

your cowardice,

your greed for positions,

your waiver of

GOD’S LAWS.

You have become a ‘spiritual Chernobyl’ in the Croatian people.

WE ARE ASHAMED BECAUSE YOU HAVE LOST SHAME!

Persistently beyond all reason and even though the Holy Father Pope Francis, Kaptol, Croatian bishops, the Croatian people together with their respected Croatian intellectual sons, members of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, who have CLEARLY decided AGAINST THE RATIFICATION OF THE ISTANBUL CONVENTION you still claim that it is a ‘deeply Christian act’ and that you are on the same side as the church?

AND, ratifying the Istanbul Convention with a gender ideology is a SATAN job and NOT a Christian act, which offends every follower of Jesus and an honourable Croat.

You are persistent in claiming that your ‘interpretation’ gives security to the Istanbul Convention from non-implementation of gender ideology, and you know that it is an ordinary pamphlet, a legally worthless paper with which you only rub people’s eyes (after all, why distance yourself from something – what is missing ?!)

Well, you will not anoint ours and that is why with this act we stop being members of a party that has nothing to do with its founder, the late President Dr. Franjo Tudjman.

God enlighten your mind!

One day, when, with God’s help, Tudjman’s honourable follower does come, if we are still alive, he can count on us.”

Bombing of Dubrovnik 1991

Do you think that the composition of the Croatian Parliament has changed since you left it and if so how?

With the death of President Tudjman, everything turned upside down. The people have chosen the people who will lead the state and state policy from the ranks of former communists who never had love for the Croatian state.

They don’t even have it today!

Because had they had it, they would not have passed such laws and they would never have ratified the Istanbul Convention, from which, by the way, Istanbul itself has recently withdrawn!

Why do my people accept the abnormal as normal – it’s not clear to me nor will it ever be!

Do you think that Croatian politicians in the functions of the legislative and other authorities were and remain irresponsible towards Croatia and the values ​​of the Homeland War after it completely ended with the peaceful reintegration of eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia in 1998?

Have we accepted the Brussels dictatorship in place of the Belgrade dictatorship? Have we lost our national pride and common sense?!

Why don’t we look up to the Hungarian President Orban and the Poles. Why do we reject our faith and our nation?

Why are we again “good servants of bad masters”!

We did something wrong in these “Lead times”. I know what!

We had to implement LUSTRATION at all costs after the end of the war (since we couldn’t or were not permitted to do before!). Yes – lustration – so, that way, it could not happen that our politics is run by people from the former communist system. Every, even the smallest cooperation with UDBA needed to prevent such “minds” from participating in the government of the Croatian state!

We didn’t do that, and we are paying the price and will continue paying a heavy price until the moment lustration happens!

Another evil that is equally important is theft.

Theft that has crept into all the pores of our lives. Both political and economic ones.

People no longer have human shame and God’s fear. All that matters is money, and how to get it – who cares. Handcuffs around the wrists of our political leaders and respected fellow citizens are becoming something that seems normal, and no one is surprised anymore at such sights.

Have these people ever gone to church and listened to sermons. I also bear a grudge towards the people of the Church. They are not consistent, they have ceased to be Stepinac’s followers, and how could they not be when their chief asks for the opinion of Bishop Irinej on Stepinac’s holiness. God forbid that this chief was there instead of St. John Paul II, because he too would perhaps ask that Bishop if he can and should he recognise the independence of Croatia.

There is no authority in the Church, no authority in the State, people’s memories removed, and, regardless of this, I still trust in God’s providence and His intervention, and hence, I do not lose hope and believe in a more certain future of my Croatian people!

When it comes to Croats, what do you dream about?

I no longer have dreams. I have dreamed all my dreams. Thanks be to God, I have received my beloved Croatia, healthy and in my mind. Stipe or Ivo can lead her … anyone, but they must know and confront the fact that it is mine, not their Croatia, that it was created in the blood and unseen love of her best sons! I want to keep her like that in my mind and with such a desire one day stand before the Lord!

———————–

ABOUT: DR. JURE BURIĆ – Born 1946 to Croatian parents in Ravno, Bosnia and Herzegovina; studied Medicine at University of Zagreb, Croatia; specialised in Otorhinolaryngology; participated in the Croatian Spring uprise of early 1970’s for greater autonomy and freedoms of Croatia within Yugoslavia; Former Mayor of Dubrovnik, Former Croatian War Commissioner for Southern Croatia during Croatia’s Homeland War; Chief of Crisis Headquarters for Dubrovnik; First and Former District Prefect (Župan) for Dubrovnik and Neretva Region of Croatia; former Member of Croatian Parliament.

Croatia Local Elections 2021: Winds Of Change – Still A Matter Of Forecasts!

Apart from a small town or two in Croatia (for example Kraljevec on Sutla) that will need to undergo a Third round of local elections due to resulting ties between candidates at First and Second rounds, the political map of Croatia’s local networks for the coming four years has been cast. The results portray a mosaic of old and new, the established and the establishing, the left and right, the “new left” and the confused that come with them.

While the main governing HDZ party won the posts of County Representative (Župan) in 15 out of 20 counties across Croatia (13 with its own candidates and 2 with its political partner candidates), it’s mayoral and Council Assembly results barely managed to hang on by the skin of the Party’s teeth. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) received an electoral lashing so severe that the once powerful party may indeed cower in pain, into a dark corner, and take quite a few years to return as a political force of note. Hopefully it never will as far as I am concerned because its name used to be Communist League of Croatia and it never wanted an independent Croatia and it never changed its mindset.

As to the larger cities for Croatia SDP retained Rijeka, which has always appeared as a stubborn and staunch supporter of the former Yugoslavia criminal and totalitarian communist regime. Ivan Puljak from Centre party has conquered as Mayor of Split, beating the HDZ candidate Vice Mihanovic. HDZ’s Ivan Radic managed to win the mayoral race for Osijek and Patriotic Movement’s candidate Ivan Penava (mayoral incumbent and formerly HDZ) won sweepingly the city of Vukovar.

The “new left”, green-left “We can!” (Možemo) Tomislav Tomasevic won the mayoral race for the Capital of Zagreb in the second round of voting held 30 May 2021. He is given just over 65% of the cast votes while his opponent Miroslav Skoro, Patriotic Movement, received about 35%. Voter turnout at these Second-round local elections was alarmingly low, in most polling places below 20%!

Tomislav Tomasevic, a perpetual, green-left activist on the streets of Zagreb who has reportedly never held down a real job but made his living depending on grants for various projects, promotes an aggressive environmental policy, transparency and equal opportunity in public procurement and a subtle but repulsive nostalgia for the fallen criminal regime of former Yugoslavia. Tomasevic has also promised the public to clean the house, i.e., clean the Zagreb Holding which controls and manages almost all facets of Zagreb’s infrastructure and business and services.  Tomasevic’s promise to clean up Zagreb Holding also shows that corruption is rife there and he intends to clean it up! This promise may be as superficial as the rest of “We can” promises appear to be, unless, of course, Tomasevic and his team do not know the barriers imposed by the relevant employment legislation. They will need to break open and apart the 20-year rule over Zagreb by the late Milan Bandic and unless done with knowhow and real determination Tomasevic could spend almost all of his mayoral mandate trying to fix or expose Milan Bandic’s corrupt handiwork and legacy.

But then, one wonders if Tomasevic’s promises to tackle corruption head on are nothing but hot steam and empty phrases? After all, he has done nothing of note since 1998, when he set out on his life of activism, to truly tackle corruption in Zagreb or elsewhere!

Miroslav Skoro, on the other hand, promotes new job-creation, new investments, healthier business environment in which corruption and widespread clientelism and wasteful spending of public money will have no place and their eradication sped up.

“Clientelism and corruption have marked the long reign of the late mayor, and unfortunately the corrupt ‘octopus’ has permeated politics at the national level as well, so I understand very well why citizens feel [apathetic],” said recently Miroslav Skoro, the leader of the Patriotic Movement.

The local elections result in the Croatian capital is also significant because, for the first time since the country’s independence in the 1990’s, both traditional parties – the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) – were left out of the race for Mayor of Zagreb at the First round of mayoral elections. This also occurred in Split, the second largest city in the country, a “new entry” in Croatian politics has emerged: Ivica Puljak – at the head of a centrist civic list. In the first two cities of Croatia, HDZ and SDP are now relegated to the margins, unable to influence decisions.

Judging by this newly arisen political climate across Croatia, especially in its capital city of Zagreb, it becomes rather apparent that changes, or rather a display of dissatisfaction and disappointment with major political parties, HDZ and SDP, have arrived through the “back door”. That is, at local rather than national levels. “We can!”, the Patriotic Movement (Domovinski pokret) and the Centrists (in Split) are relatively new political platforms in Croatia, propelling the electorate to think, again, as to which one of them (if any) may indeed one day form the “third” political force needed to beak up the stale HDZ/SDP political bipolarism or duopoly. Their presence in the Council Assemblies across Croatia, not just the Capital City, will be felt during the coming four years as each won a comfortable number of seats on municipal assemblies, local government!

Whether both “We can” and the Patriotic Movement will be able to keep this newly bestowed momentum of political power through the coming four years and turn it into a national political force to be reckoned with is yet to be seen. It would appear that a great deal of effort is needed to maintain that force of influence that promises changes for the better; neither HDZ nor SDP are about to curl-up and die! Croatia had in the past decade seen the rise of a possible third political force in “MOST” (BRIDGE) coalition of independents, but it soon dissipated into not much except wishful thinking. The same occurred with the “Live Wall” (Živi zid) lot which can easily be tagged with the “Gone with the wind” tag given to the film based on 1939 Margaret Mitchell’s legendary novel by the same name! There one day, gone the next!  

There is rather a widespread fear that Tomasevic and his green-left or new left, that’s now present in large numbers of Council Assemblies across Croatia, will usher in a new lease of life to the communist mindset and values of the former communist Yugoslavia. This, of course, would mean further erosion of Homeland War values and the reasons why 94% of Croatian voters voted at referendum in May 1991 to secede from communist Yugoslavia. All until the “antifascist” elements of World War Two Croatia are removed from the Croatian Constitution as a foundation of independence of Croatia such fears will be fuelled and sadly justified. Justification, though, means nothing unless actions are taken up to remove the fear.

Tomislav Tomasevic and his political partners in the “We can!” movement are constantly voicing how they want Zagreb to be equal for all, equal opportunities for all but they seem to overlook that equality is not possible in the surroundings that operate on political suitability of individuals and undermining those who fought and died for independent Croatia. Surely – there can be no equality there where many (pro-left usually) still live in houses and apartments stolen by Yugoslav communists from either Jews or Croats who fought for an independent Croatia during WWII. Surely – there can be no equality in a place where one category of mass killing victims (victims of communist crimes) are not afforded respect and justice and the crimes which led to their deaths – covered up.    

Surely, there can be no equality unless the equality is measured against the national goals or values and for Croatia these goals and values are attached to the 1990’s fight for independence from communist Yugoslavia and not to Yugoslavia itself.

The point is that while certain steps towards the change for the better can be made locally, it is the national steps that actually bring real change all across the land. Ina Vukic

Croatia – Election Results In Capital Zagreb Crucial For Continued Affirmation Of Harshly Won Sovereignty

30th May is Croatian Statehood Day! The date that marked in 1990 the inauguration of the Croatian Parliament as we know it today, the guardian as it were of a sovereign Croatia.

Happy Croatian Statehood Day!

In 2021 it is also the day when the Second round of local elections will be held. If the new left green We Can (Možemo) coalition wins lead positions in the Capital of Zagreb local government it will also signal an attack (either by large or small voter turnout) on Croatia’s sovereignty away from communist Yugoslavia.    

People in Croatia during the last 15 years, at least, have been crying out for change! Change in political leadership that would bring about a solidification of values fought for during the 1990’s Homeland War, when almost 94% of Croatian voters said a big YES to secession from communism and Yugoslavia. Whichever way one turned it seemed the popular consensus was that Croatia needs to rid itself of HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union and SDP/Social Democratic Party as leading political parties because their governments since year 2000 had increasingly failed to modernise laws in order to move away from former communist practices, increasingly failed to cut corruption and nepotism, increasingly failed to usher in investment and development that would battle alarming unemployment and brain drain away from the country… Yet voter turnout had consistently been low for this change to actually occur.  

Today, in 2021, Croatia still lives in an era of unprecedented income inequality, unnatural political elitism, corruption, non-responsive legislation to the evident needs, and skyrocketing childhood poverty just as it did under the communist/socialist regime in former Yugoslavia. In 2019 and according to the research of the Institute of Economics [“Child Poverty and Strategies for Coping with Household Poverty in Croatia”] almost 300,000 children in Croatia lived in poverty, often without basic necessities. The situation is not better today and that is an unacceptable number of children living in poverty; in a country of just over 4 million people those numbers are debilitating and devastating. The 2019 survey cited another devastating statistic: one in five members of poor families said at least one member of the household had gone to bed hungry in the month prior to the survey.

No doubt, financial insecurity increases someone’s odds of poor psychological and physical well-being. And so, one must wonder if many voters in Zagreb who have at the first round of local elections on 16 May 2021 voted significantly for the new ultra-left green hybrid of communism and socialism under the name “We Can” (Možemo) into the Council Assembly are actually still walking the communist Yugoslavia tightrope of wilful self-deception, being a Pollyanna, who only wears rose-tinted glasses and pretends the glass is half-full when it’s really not! The We Can voters as those activists involved in this political platform have certainly not learned the lesson of sustainable good life and that is: without hard work and productivity there can be no permanent exit from poverty and financial insecurity. They say they will get rid of corruption, yet corrupt and non-transparent ways define their funded activist histories! Their employment or productivity history reads activist, paid activist, NGO activist with no services provision but lots of pro-communist political claptrap, LGBTQIA intrusive pressure against mainstream Christian family values (whether you want the pressure or not) … evidently carrying the badge of approval of the communism coined phrases “State-led Corruption” and “State-led Mass Murder”!

These We Can political activists are really of the same breed as the major political parties like HDZ and SDP, who have held government both nationally and locally. The fact that they brandish the symbols and insignia of the former communist Yugoslavia as something to be celebrated, even though it murdered in cold blood at least one million of innocent people, even though the EU has branded it as criminal totalitarian regime – tells you everything about them even though the tattoo “democracy” is “embedded” upon their foreheads.  

As to how much this new left hybrid of unwelcome communism and socialism that’s hiding under “We Can” name will rock Croatia’s political and economic stability in the coming four years will be seen on this coming Sunday 30th May when the 2nd Round of local elections will confirm the leading positions of Mayor, Deputy Mayor and County Governors. What happens in the Capital city of a country is usually the guiding rule as to what political mood will spread throughout the country in the coming four years. Should the We Can Tomislav Tomasevic win the Mayoral seat of Zagreb instead of Miroslav Skoro of the Homeland Movement party, for instance, Croatia should also brace itself for some serious reckoning on the streets directed against the communist past being kept alive in Croatia.

The fact that a portion of Croatia’s voters may be realigning to the Left after the Social Democrats have lost much footing on the ground in past couple of years is not so much of a concern, given the Left has always been there, but what is of grave concern is the fact that with this new Left (under We Can brand) comes a mad and brazen attempt at reaffirmation of values of communist regime of former Yugoslavia against which 94% voted in 1991! It would be communism and socialism creeping back into the Capital City, walking without recognition or respect over the dead bodies and bones of thousands upon thousands who sacrificed their lives to rid Croatia of that political and social plague in the 1990’s. I shudder at this possibility.

In local elections held in 576 local and regional government bodies in Croatia on Sunday, May 16, in 70 cities, the heads were elected in the first round of voting. Of these, the HDZ won 36 mayorships and the major opposition party, the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP), managed only 13. Of the six counties that elected prefects in the first round, HDZ secured four. Other counties and cities will have runoffs on May 30 to elect their mayors and prefects.

In three major cities, the incumbent HDZ failed to achieve major breakthroughs. In Zagreb, Tomislav Tomasevic, leader of Mozemo! (We can!) from the green-left coalition, secured 45.15% votes while his nearest rival Miroslav Skoro, leader of the right-wing Homeland Movement, won 12.6% votes. In the 47-seat Zagreb City Assembly, the green-left We Can coalition won 23 seats, falling one seat short of simple majority.

In Split, the second largest city in Croatia, Ivica Puljak from the liberal Centre party won 26.82% votes and will take on Vice Mihanović from the HDZ (23.23% votes) in the second round on 30 May. In Rijeka, the third largest city and a traditional SDP stronghold, Marko Filipović from the SDP (30.25%) will take on independent centre-right candidate Davor Stimac (16.10%) in the second round.

Local elections in Croatia as elsewhere in Europe, are considered a second-order election and not so important for the national agenda. They are called as such because regularly they attracted less interest, as well as lower voter turnout, and are perceived less crucial than parliamentary and presidential elections, which form a national constellation of political relations. However, one must heed a warning that local elections in Croatia are quite pivotal because, for example, many political parties do not possess the same amount of strength or public recognition at the national level, when compared to local politics. Such parties invest all of their efforts in building local-level networks that include not only politicians but entrepreneurs and interest groups, which subsequently helps them in pushing forward with their national-level policies. This is particularly important in the atmosphere where state-controlled mainstream media outlets is very biased and discriminates against political candidates. Local elections are also significant due to the fact that decision-makers on the local level can, at the same time, perform duties on the national level. For example, one who holds a position of city mayor or county governor, can be elected to legislative body on the national level, that is, the Croatian Parliament. Therefore, this local election race is quite significant as it will showcase the strength of two of the major political parties HDZ and SDP) as well as the strength of the emerging political forces that seem to be seen as filling the “third option” shoes in the country. At this moment the two competing for these shoes are the ultra-leftist and green We Can and the right-wing Homeland Movement led by Miroslav Skoro. Whichever wins the top position for Zagreb will signal the way that the political climate is likely to move in the immediate future. If Tomasevic wins nostalgia towards the criminal communist regime of Yugoslavia is likely to grow causing major unrests on the streets and beyond. If Skoro wins a stronger orientation towards business and new job development and a deserved strengthening of Homeland War values. The later would be what Croatia needs and must have in order to become politically and economically stable. Ina Vukic

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