Croatia – Electoral Law Groundhog Day

croatia revolution

31.5% of Dubrovnik’s eligible voters came out to vote at the Referendum (for or against the proposed development of area Srdj [Srđ] above the city into an elite golf course and apartments) last Sunday.

Not a big turnout, but some 80% of those that did vote voted against the development. While the referendum initiators (those against the development/ “Srdj is ours” group) claim that, given such overwhelming expression against the development the local government has no choice but to commit to these results/ i.e. that people of Dubrovnik really don’t want the development going ahead.

The government, local or otherwise, will stick to the electoral/referendum legislation,
which says that 50% (of eligible voters) + 1 vote must vote in order for the voting results to be valid. And, of course, that suits the government as they have been and are on the investors’ and developers’ side.

This example serves as the latest terrible and unjust reality Croatian citizens must put up with in cases like this. That is, in the referendum for EU membership for example, 50% + 1 of all eligible voters did not have to vote for the results to be legal (any number, any turnout, is valid). But, local issues referendums must have 50% + 1 vote to be valid – despite the governments promises over the past 18 months that the latter would be changed to align with the former through legislative change.

The law had never changed!

Election results still don’t reflect a determined will of the people’s (a reasonable and acceptable size of the body of population as expressed via eligible voters) will on issues affecting their daily lives.

Furthermore, there are still no provisions for postal or electronic votes and in the case of Dubrovnik referendum people traveled to Dubrovnik from everywhere, in Croatia and Europe, last Sunday in order to vote. Just imagine – many could not afford to travel either from lack of money or from frailty. The electoral law still practices discrimination through lack of access to voting.

Revolution in Croatia

As the turnout for the return of entirely innocent Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac (November 2012) as well as the protest turnout against dual-language signs in Vukovar and Podunavlje (April 2013) demonstrated, Croatians, when they want to, can turn out in big numbers and demonstrate their unity and voice their opinions despite a hostile government and a rabid, hate-filled Yugoslav nationalist-socialist media spider web downplaying and spinning and or misrepresenting the silent Croatian majority’s opinion.

Croatia, however, does not need a violent revolution – it needs a logical revolution.

Croatia’s woes are not beholden to this government alone, nor its HDZ predecessor under the kleptocrat in Conservative drag (no pun intended), nor the wolves in sheep’s clothing that betrayed Croatia’s first, and to date, only Croatian President, Franjo Tudjman, as his health and mental capacities deteriorated due to cancer, and they filled their pockets with the treasure Croatia paid for in a sea of blood and suffering by its brave citizens, police and soldiers with an entire international community against any Croatia, and Croatia under an arms embargo.

It is beholden to the election law that was somewhat of a wartime necessity to keep the Yugoslav ultra-nationalist socialists demanding Krajina be recognised and that Croatia accept that it lost the war from getting into power that, despite his brilliant wartime leadership and strategic and tactical vision that made him the most successful statesman and geostrategist in post-WWII Europe, Tudjman failed to change before his death.

No one is perfect.

However, no one has since tried to change the law – in which Croatian citizens vote for parties and not candidates, which means that since 1990 there has been no accountability – because it is something that both the faux Conservatives and faux Socialists want to maintain.

Any discussion about changing it is immediately attacked by those in government and the opposition, as well as their paid prostitutes in Croatia’s unfree and untransparent, mostly Yugoslav ultra-nationalist socialist, media.

The ruling kleptocratic idiocrats therefore after election time simply play magical chairs and switch seats in Parliament, from Opposition to Government, and vice versa.

Accountability

To date, parties, not people, have been held accountable in Croatia at election time. Therefore, the unfortunate election paradigm of voting for the lesser evil – and not, say, for the competent candidate that either delivered on promises that deserves re-election, or the candidate that has succinctly outlined a strategy that will best defend the interests of his or her constituency and above all, national interest – has been the dynamic that has shaped Croatia’s pathetic political scene and equally pitiful economic, domestic, and foreign policies.

This lesser-evil voting problem is compounded by the fact that the “former” Yugoslav Communist Party and “former” Croatian Communist Party ruling castes within HDZ, SDP, HNS and other major parties simply recycle the same incompetent kleptocratic idiocrats in different positions within the opposition or government (depending on which party Croatians vote more against).

Which brings Croatia to the absurd point that hundreds of thousands of patriots and people who suffered through the war and the disastrous economic policies of post-Tudjman Croatian governments (when Tudjman died, Croatia’s debt, after a war that in damage alone cost 27.1 billion USD, was 9 billion USD, now it is reaching 50 billion EUR) voted against Jadranka Kosor’s incompetent Sanaderesque (as in Ivo Sanader-former PM now in court for corruption and the like crimes) vision and put in an even more incompetent Zoran Milanovic government, which put Vesna Pusic – who, were she a citizen of any other country during wartime and engaged in the same activities as she did against Croatia, would most likely be convicted and sentenced for treason – in charge of Croatian foreign policy; and the high-pitched Slavko Linic (minister of finance), whose policies robbed Rijeka of its rightful place as a major shipping and ship producing hub of Central Europe’s future, and so on.

So, in essence, every election cycle is like the movie Groundhog Day – a few different bad decisions but more or less the same old, same old – in terms of Croatia’s economic, domestic and foreign policy, the same old incompetence and dilettantism with a few cosmetic changes to the bloated pig.

A One-Point Referendum on the Election Law is a Logical Revolution

When Croatia’s election law is changed to direct democracy, or at least an Irish-style election law where the candidates who received the most party-list votes are the ones who get into Parliament, voters will finally be able to hold its politicians and leaders accountable for their actions.

The only way to actually bring about any change whatsoever in Croatia, is to start a signature campaign to hold a referendum on Croatia’s election laws and allow for citizens to vote for candidates, and not parties.

The failure in the previous nation-wide referendum was that there were simply too many points, and people would reject one point and then not sign the referendum because that point did not fit their belief system.

However, if Croatia had a logical election law that provided for direct democracy, political parties would be beholden to voters and single-item issues such as genetically modified foods and some of the other issues the referendum-initiators were hoping people would support would be items of discussion in Sabor (Parliament), or county, or city governments – as voters would hold their representatives accountable if the issues they actually cared about were not represented or pushed by their representatives in government.

Most referendum issues would be obsolete, for in a election system that inherently forces accountability onto politicians, much of the referendum issues would sooner or later become issues if their constituents demanded them. They would finally see the light of day in discussions in local and county government and in Croatia’s Sabor.

A referendum on a single item, Croatia’s Election Law, would end this ongoing criminal highway robbery of Croatian taxpayers and their and their children’s futures by the circus freak show of incompetents in Croatia’s Sabor, where most of the circus freaks spend less time in than they do in the Sabor Cantina, drinking, babbling nonsense and wasting time on the taxpayers dime.

Without a change to Croatia’s Election Law, Groundhog Day will be relived government after government, and Croatia’s hard-fought freedom and independence will slowly be withered away due to blatant treason, which we have grown used to since Stjepan Mesic’s questionable first election, and incompetence.

Its time to start this revolution – today!

[Thank you to the readers and commentators on this Blog whose sharp observation skills, superior verbal fluency, healthy critical minds, unconditional love for Croatia, knowledge of Croatia’s history, current issues and political system and its practices who have contributed significantly to this particular post “Croatia – Electoral Law Groundhog Day”. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)]

Croatia: A misguided Critique Of Parliamentary Opposition

Tomislav Karamarko

Tomislav Karamarko

Unlike in most “Western” parliaments, Croatian parliament has no officially elected position/role of Leader of the Opposition; in Croatia the title Leader of the Opposition is unofficially attached to the Leader of the political party holding most seats on opposition benches. Yet, much of the Croatian public and media act towards Tomislav Karamarko (President of the largest political party in parliamentary opposition, Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ), as though he occupies an officially elected Leader of the Opposition role and treat his strengths or weaknesses through that prism, which in fact does not exist as a formal and binding role such as the one of the Prime Minister, for example. Croatian Parliament has a number of political parties sitting on opposition benches (Labour Party, HDSSB, Croatian Party of Rights dr. Ante Starcevic etc.), leaders of which are also afforded public and media regard as being in opposition.

Tomislav Karamarko, although not officially the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Croatia cops criticisms left, right and centre and is expected to “save” the economic and political disaster that has peaked in Croatia during the past year   – singlehandedly!

One wonders whether these criticisms are truly for the benefit of the overall good for the country or whether they are political manipulations rooted in the Cock-a-doodle-doo coalition government, which benefits politically from criticisms of a party in opposition in that its own disastrous shortcomings and incompetence blur-up or even get to “look good” at times.

Any political party, which has suffered major electoral losses (such as HDZ did at the last general elections), has an absolute right to regroup and revitalise itself. After all, that’s what we see happening in every democratic country after general elections. Nothing wrong in that, in fact, that is how democracy works (and should work) because every regrouping and every revitalisation of a political party happens in pursuits of winning government at future elections.

The Opposition’s main role is to question the government of the day and hold them accountable. In Croatia this gets complicated by the fact that any leaders of any of the several political parties in opposition can put on a hat of “opposition leader”, on any day, on any issue and in that sea of different “opposition hats” the public is served with a fertile ground for opposing discourse and lack of firm alternative direction. Another role of parliamentary opposition is to utilise the sittings of the parliament as opportunities for scrutinising the policies and administration of the government. This happens in the Croatian parliament, however with no clear and official “government in opposition” sitting on those benches – many sessions end up as multi-edged swords where all that can be heard are rows between individuals that lead to little, if any, changes or constructive debates.

A couple of days ago I came across an article in Vecernji List, written by journalist Zvonimir Despot, which evidences the fact that there is quite significant misunderstanding in Croatia as to what Tomislav Karamarko as leader of Croatian Democratic Union – in the current political and economic circumstances – should or should not do. Apparent misunderstanding of the structure of Croatian parliament and its roles here is not the problem, for people can learn, but when such misunderstanding targets a politician to create the belief and false perception that such a politician is not doing his job (as Leader of Opposition, which does not exist) for the country, then one simply must respond – without bias, without preferences, with pure reality in mind.

Despot writes: “When the government in power is incompetent, when there is no way out of crisis, when it delivers catastrophic decisions, day in and day out, and churns out even more comical statements, then it is logical that a great deal is expected from the opposition. That it be active when it’s not in government, and that it prepares the path for its coming to power, but that it also offers a new program, new people, new freshness, new face of Croatia, an alternative to the voters, and to only distribute armchairs and the same used party machines, let alone imposers”.

While Despot’s writing about what opposition should do falls in line with what opposition does in parliamentary democracies, where lines between government and opposition are officially defined, his attack against Karamarko in the article, to my view, is completely out of order, especially if we appraise the big picture of the Croatian parliamentary structure and official roles. In criticising the opposition, Despot should have also referred to all the other leaders of all the other parliamentary parties in opposition. Karamarko does not have the official mandate to take upon his back the work opposition as a whole should be doing; he is one among several “opposition leaders”, so why single him out? Because he leads the largest number of chairs on opposition benches!? Not justified, in my book.

What Despot could have done, to further democracy in Croatia, is seek that Croatian Parliament actually elects a Leader of the Opposition – and if Constitution does not allow that, then seek legislative changes – who could then take on the role Despot is talking about with accountability and mandate.

In the situation as is – with several political parties claiming and practicing the opposition stake – it is indeed most prudent of the Croatian Democratic Union not to offer its program to the public just yet. Parties in opposition simply do not divulge their secrets, their whole programs too far in advance of parliamentary elections and, hence, protect their right to present their programs to the public when the time for that is right. Otherwise, divulging their programs and plans too far ahead of elections runs the risk of the incompetent government attempting to benefit by plucking out parts of opposition’s programs and developing them as their own.

People in Croatia, it seems, are most disappointed in current government’s performance but it is not the job of the Croatian Democratic Union to stop the government from drowning in its own incompetency.  The job of any political party in opposition is to let the incompetent party in government drown – lose at next elections.

The job of the Croatian Democratic Union, and the job of any political party in opposition is to demonstrate, during the campaigns leading to election day that they can be a better government than the incumbent. It’s too early for HDZ or any political party in Croatia, in opposition, to start their election campaign so far away from election date.

Furthermore, Despot seems to interpret unity, or attempts to achieve unity within HDZ as fostering a “personality cult”, spreading negative connotations against the party. He says: “ … in that party, nurturing of personality cult continues. Whether Karamarko sees that, or not, whether he knows that, or not, whether he likes or dislikes it, whatever, the personality cult is once again in action. How? Well, because HDZ is still steered by practicing all for one, one for all, which is really the usual interparty democratic method”.

I have yet to see a successful political party operate in disunity and without a strong, distinct leader.  To my experience of democratic elections there has never been a party elected into government, which presented itself as disunited and without strong leadership figures presented to the public. While Despot attempts to compare such a scenario of rule by “personality cult” with the cult of Josip Broz Tito, of communist Yugoslavia, one cannot but disagree with this parallel. There were no multiparty democratic elections under Tito and no different personalities among which the public could choose its future leader of government. Furthermore, Despot offers the public a kind of a “sob story” for the embattled ex-Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, whose membership in HDZ apparently hangs in the balance after she had spoken against her own political party (HDZ) in public recently. Reacting to Karamarko’s reprimanding reactions to this, Despot holds that Kosor should be afforded respect regardless of what or how she is!

Politics and governments are all about leadership. If there is no leadership, there is no guidance and, eventually, no real progress. Why someone would compare the building of today’s HDZ leadership to Tito’s way of governing through his personality cult is beyond me! It is unfair because the modern workings of competing political parties within the milieu of democracy actually require personal and party competitiveness that leads to competition as to who can better deliver for the good of the people, of the nation – if elected into government.  Karamarko has inherited a political party in shambles (HDZ) and it stands to reason that much work needs to be done to revitalise it and to regroup it, if it wants to run for government at the next elections. However, to label any regrouping or revitalisation measures in HDZ from spectators’ stand (by journalists or member of public…) as following “personality cult” practices is just plain unfair and, most likely far from the truth. It would be much more productive for Croatia if the media were to worry about educating the public about how its hard won democracy should work in their daily lives, rather than misguiding it by allowing it to think that it has only one party in parliamentary opposition role and that one party may not have the right and the freedom to organise itself as it sees fit. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A.,M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Corruption investigators knocking on Croatia’s former president’s – Stjepan Mesic – door!

Stjepan Mesic

Corruption seems woven deeply into the fabric of  that part of Croatian society where former, and perhaps some current power brokers, politicians and public company directors roam. No big surprise there, all former communist countries are tarnished with the same brush. The challenge is to pluck out the rotten threads, one by one, and free the society from having to tolerate individuals who have amassed personal wealth through corruption and bribery, and impoverished the country’s industrial base to such alarming proportions that sees new companies either bankrupt or at the brink of bankruptcy every day.

One doesn’t need to be highly street-wise to conclude that the ever climbing, disastrous levels of unemployment in Croatia are directly correlated to the gradual, allegedly corruption driven, depletion of jobs and winding down of hundreds of companies.

To see grown men cry on the streets, in front of daily TV News cameras, not knowing how they will feed their families without a job, is a motive that must mobilise all appropriate authorities into more action against corruption. Not only to process any justified corruption charges but to confiscate all property acquired through the crime that corruption is.

During the past three or so years in particular, the former HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) government of Croatia, led by Jadranka Kosor, had declared war on corruption. The strongest message for this warfare was sent when the former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader ended up behind bars on corruption charges (currently still being heard in court).

Croatia’s new government, led by Zoran Milanovic, SDP (Social Democratic Party), has just this week demonstrated that it, too, has the hallmarks and stamina to engage in war against corruption.

Croatia’s Defence Minister Ante Kotromanovic stated, for the media, last Tuesday, that all documents pertaining to allegations of bribery in the 2007 purchasing of armoured vehicles worth 112 Million EURO from Finnish company Patria during the presidency of Stjepa Mesic have been sent to the State Prosecutor’s Office for investigation.

This investigation is sparked by the recent “allegation made by Wolgang Riedl, Patria’s go-between person during the sale of armoured vehicles in Slovenia and for a short period of time in Croatia as well, about meetings that allegedly took place in the Office of the President during the time when Stjepan Mesic was in office”.

Riedl told investigators the names of people in Croatia to whom he gave bribes, after which investigators started checking his claims.

The media claims that the Office of the President was included the process of purchasing armoured vehicles and that Mesic, as the supreme commander, was very well informed of the events and that given his position he could have directly influenced the selection of the weapons providers.

In a Media release, the former Croatian President Stjepan Mesic said on Thursday 5 April “that he had not participated at any moment in the decision making process concerning the purchase of armoured vehicles or in any way influenced a commission which made a decision to purchase armoured vehicles from Finland’s producer Patria”.

However, a year ago Mesic said to Media services that there was no talk of bribery at meeting with Patria, but remembered that someone came after the contract with Patria was signed.

At the end of the day, it seems highly unlikely that Reidl would fabricate allegations of bribery and it seems highly likely that people from the Office of Croatian President while Mesic occupied it received bribes. If the latter is confirmed then it’d be the only responsible action by the State Prosecutor to trace the path of that money and where it trickled to, in buckets it seems.

The fact that corruption (bribery) charges in Patria case, similar scenario, have reached high echelons of government power in Slovenia over the past few years is an indication that the Croatian leg of this  sorry and angering story of bribery is valid.

Obviously, while Mesic’s memory in this case may be correct, he has certainly demonstrated appalling inconsistencies when it comes to remembering events during the past decade or so. His memory had especially been misleading and confused when it came to “lost” moneys, in form of cheques, given to him to take to bank accounts for humanitarian aid Croatian émigrés held in Villach, Austria, during the years of the Croatian Homeland War. But this is an another issue, well publicised in Croatian press, which, with perseverance, may see resolution in not too distant a future. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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