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

Croatia: Except For Homeland Movement, Local Government Elections 2021 Platforms Largely Blind To Diaspora’s Power For Real Progress

Local government elections in Croatia were going to occur in May regardless of the sudden death in March of Zagreb’s long-standing Mayor Milan Bandic. In the local elections, on Sunday, May 16, 2021 (with second round on 30th May), Croatian citizens will elect their representative and executive power for the next four years in 576 local government units. That is how many municipalities, cities and counties Croatia has in which citizens will elect councils and assemblies, as well as mayors, county representatives, prefects and their deputies. And remember, Croatia is a country of just over 4 million people! To say that such atomisation of the country into so many local government units is ridiculous and devastation-prone would be an understatement. But, the bottom line is, and a bitter one at that, is that it keeps the politically suitable in a job! Just as it did in communist Yugoslavia. Full control of a nation under the guise of decentralisation of power and self-government!

With the need to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, which is currently peaking at its third wave with thousands new cases every day, albeit declining, dozens of deaths every day and the visibly crumbling public health care system, and the aftermath of the devastating Zagreb and Banovina earthquakes, it is clear that 2021 local elections will perhaps like never before (in living memory) be all the more demanding. Economic losses from Coronavirus pandemic and the frequent earthquakes that have been serially devastating Zagreb and Banovina around it, since March 2020, have significantly impoverished the country and people.  

One would think that local government election platforms should have some consistency with the needs of the whole nation rather than appearing like some individual flickering lights in the skies that glitter individually but together form no contours that would appease the fears for a safe and working future for most if not all. So far, the election platforms seeping out into the media are very much about local issues and, indeed, perhaps this time more than ever before in the history of local government elections we might see votes go to those who are likely to achieve most for the local community. This, of course, is a desired effect in a democratic world but it can be a disaster if local needs fall by wayside of national pursuits and/or priorities that ensure the continuance of projects kick-started by some EU Funds or any funds that have no permanent maintenance or growth. It’s like sticking a band aid on a wound that will not cease festering without proper treatment.

So, it’s like: let’s fix the broken pieces and not worry about the durability of the fix!   

With an enormous number of candidates, political parties and independents, running at these elections it is easy to see that the political national cohesiveness towards a national solidarity and togetherness the Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic/HDZ Party is airing as a most essential component that will save Croatia is falling on deaf ears when it comes to gathering forces in order to fix Croatia as a whole. This is not surprising. Both HDZ and SDP Parties, as largest political parties in the land are losing support and ground by landslides and the smaller parties and independents have seemingly also incorporated into their election promise the use of EU and other funds serving as temporary solution band aids. Not many delve into how to use these funds in order to become independent of them at the other end.

The much-needed job-creation is not surfacing so far as a common thread in election campaigns. For those areas that depend on tourism much of the election campaign energy is being invested in measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 so that the coming tourist season could bear some solid results. This of course, in the current pandemic climate is a “no-brainer”! “You just do what you’ve been doing, and you should be alright” type of a thing!    

Of course, for the areas devastated by the earthquakes it is a given that re-building of housing and infrastructure will be a priority. However, apart from political rhetoric and declarations it is at this stage unclear as to how all this will occur outside disaster-relief funds from the EU, which is not a bottomless pit.

What strikes me as indicative of “more of the same”, lame or no real progress in the economy for the next 4 years, is that most candidates and/or political parties vying for local government positions have avoided plans that capitalise on the enormous potential that the Croatian diaspora has in contributing to local economies and job-creation. For decades now those in government in Croatia have persistently spoken of the great potential the Croatian diaspora has for real growth and progress, economic, demographic and overall. But as I have written here many times before, this rhetoric is nothing more than a tool for vote-gathering at parliamentary elections. Nothing much gets done and the laws passed in parliament do not reflect the need for Croatia to truly turn itself towards its diaspora, which is rich in knowledge and financial power.  Where better than on the local level to act in order to make come to fruitful life the contribution that Croatian returnees or Croatians investing from the diaspora!

But this is not happening at the 2021 local government elections. Not as far as it can now be seen. Perhaps the coming weeks will prove me wrong (?) It’s turning into a race of largely left-wing, communist Yugoslavia nostalgic political parties used to milking somebody else’s purses (this time the EU’s and the IMF’s) instead of setting up own industry that would ensure prosperous ongoing survival.

The only political party that to my knowledge has accentuated in its official election program the need to involve the Croatian diaspora in the building up of local economic strength is the Homeland Movement Party (stranka Domovinski pokret), headed by Miroslav Skoro. Its election platform has a dedicated chapter on the role of the Croatian diaspora and how to harness its invaluable contribution for the betterment of local economies and demography.

This chapter is titled:
“The Return of Emigrated Croats and Their Families”:

  • Contribution to demographic and economic recovery
  • Identification of deficient occupations
  • Assistance in socialization, especially of children
  • Cooperation with consular services and Catholic missions around the world
  • Systematic assistance to young people and young families in housing independence through the launch of a pilot project through EU funds
  • Systematic assistance in resolving administrative documentation
  • Through an active immigration policy towards people whose body is abroad and whose heart is in Croatia, let us preserve our identity

Ina Vukic

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