Croatia: EU Parliament Elections – Winners are Losers in Dismal 20.84% Voter Turnout!

July 2013 EU Parliament representatives for Croatia   Photo Pixsell

July 2013 EU Parliament representatives for Croatia Photo Pixsell

Were you to observe the media buzz in Croatia, with all the pomp and ceremony (including photos with brightly coloured shawls around politicians shoulders, balloons, confetti, champagne …) you would think there was a major event in Croatia that ended in victories of unseen avalanche  proportions; political landslides large enough to cause earthquakes of at least 9 points magnitude on the Richter scale.

Just prior to the EUP elections held on Sunday 14 April the Electoral Roll was “sorted” (meaning the authorities found that there is now 3,738,708 eligible voters living in Croatia (or have a registered address of abode there). The Croatian Electoral Commission (Državno izborno povjerenstvo/DIP) says that 20.84% of eligible voters actually voted at EUP Elections in Croatia.

This translates into some 780,000 people in total who actually voted.

Out of that number of votes, according to results of 98% counted by DIP, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), which also includes candidates of the Croatian Party of Rights Dr Ante Starcevic (HSP AS) and the BUZ pensioners’ party, won 32.93%.
The coalition consisting of the ruling Social Democratic Party (SDP), the Croatian People’s Party (HNS) and the Croatian Pensioners’ Party (HSU) followed with 31.95%.

The Labour Party finished third with 5.76%.

Hence, it is likely that 6 seats will go to HDZ coalition, 5 to SDP coalition and 1 to Labour.

While it is customary to congratulate the winners and say well done to all others who participated in the electoral race, the dismal voter turnout is surely a sign of a political and democratic swamp suffocating Croatia.

Certainly, one cannot claim a victory in the name of the people with the choice of only 20.84% represented in these results.

This is among the WORST voter turnout for EUP in EU history! Furthermore, one could safely conclude that the 2013 EUP elections in Croatia may well reflect the results of much of political party vote recruitment (or voting in accordance with party orders).

The following are votes counted for the winners:

HDZ list of candidates:

Ruža Tomašić (63.882)

Andrej Plenković (37.015)

Dubravka Šuica (30.979)

Davor Stier (13.752)

Ivana Maletić (4.424)

Zdravka Bušić (4.010)
SDP list of candidates:

Tonino Picula (110.278)

Biljana Borzan (17.584)

Marino Baldini (1.631)

Oleg Valjalo (1.325)

Sandra Petrović Jakovina (3.806)
Croatian Labour list: Nikola Vuljanić (6.351)
Not much to celebrate about, is it!?

Flimsy electoral victories if I ever did see one!

Indeed, the many anti-EU Croatian voters have not voted at these elections; others are simply too disillusioned with the government and opposition and do not have enough energy to get out and vote – try and change the political landscape in Croatia (it’s almost like mass depression from widespread unemployment and impoverished living standards is working for the benefit of the “big” political party machinery).

With local government elections coming up in May, HDZ, which has had a difficult time in trying to reinvent itself after its significant loss at the December 2011 general elections, is hopeful that, given its success at the EUP elections, it will also reap similar rewards at the local ones.

SDP with its coalition has lost significant ground among the voters. The EUP voters have sent a strong message to the government it seems.

Or, one major party may have been a better “recruiter” of votes than the other?

While EUP elections voter turnout has been known to be at low levels in several countries, from time to time, in Croatia, where a dismally low voter turnout in January 2012 (around 29%) for EU referendum secured Croatia’s progression into EU membership, these EUP elections in Croatia are a symptom of serious disillusionment with the way democracy is going as well as persistence of the significant anti-EU voter sentiment.

Very low voter turnout also signifies apathy that has the capability of endangering the system of democracy. And when you have this, where people simply do not vote, do not speak up (vote) – for whatever reason – then the wheels of political party machinery that go about securing votes, recruiting votes, really start spinning; to keep the party in power. And, this is usually the least those who do not vote want!

It needs to be said that election campaigns for EUP by candidates have been most humble and certainly not widespread, especially when it comes to the smaller parties and independents’ lists of candidates.  Time was very limited. Also, many would have realised that it would be a “waste” of precious money to try and campaign properly amidst major party activities and various media manipulations.

Be it as it may, the candidate list (Democratic Centre Party) I was on did quite well, considering. We won a total of just over 6,000 votes and this is a great success for which my colleagues and I are most grateful. Our “maiden” voyage into the electoral-scape saw our Joint Movement of Good making a positive impact.  Our program got more votes than some of the electoral “winners” who are “going to Brussels”.

We wish them all the best and mat they do Croatia proud!

If one could go so far as to foresee the future for the next general election in Croatia (2015) on the basis of EUP election results we could be looking at a hung parliament (between the two major party coalitions), or a miracle might happen and people will actually make an effort and go to the polls, vote and create a wonderful new political landscape that will move democracy in Croatia to its deserved and long awaited levels of full citizen participation, thus sever the ties with political elitism inherited from communist times and shatter the seeming “invincibility” of the political elite. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Sydney)

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