Party System, Voting System and Media Conspiring To Hollow Out Croatian Democracy

Zeljko Glasnovic
Photo: Screenshot

To listen in on any halfway serious discussion of politics in Croatia these days is to eavesdrop on a cacophony, on a racket of dissatisfaction, anger and disillusionment. Issues come and go several times a day in the hothouse of political crises and divisions that Croatia appears to chronically be in, but the underlying unease and anger remain no matter how much people vent or how many logical arguments they make about a given issue. Which means – the time for wielding axes of decommunisation is now.

That the electoral system (which delivers power) is a vital heart-muscle of democracy and if it doesn’t seek out true representation of the people, as it has been the case in Croatia, then it must be changed. Croatia’s electoral woes are a harsh reminder of elements contained in the communist heritage that trickled down and trickles down from the former Yugoslav communist regime where elections were a mere rubber stamping of communist party lines. Croatian electoral system also includes the election of ethnic minority representatives that is a crude replica of rubber-stamping and the stuff power-personality cults are made of, even those working against the interests of Croatia, regretfully. However, winds of change are once again in the air and seeking out a referendum on the electoral system.

At this point in time, the Croatian voting system is up for referendum if those advocating for changes get their way.

But we must be aware that as in other democracies there are three drivers in Croatian politics – the parties, the voting system and the media – that are all connected and self-supporting or rather resisting changes to true democracy away from communist Yugoslavia and fake-antifascist claws. And all are conspiring to hollow out Croatian democracy even further.

The reason the whole kabuki is so unsatisfactory, infuriating, is because most seem to be worrying about day-to-day political information and issues rather than addressing all the underlying drivers of problems. There are a number of these drivers, but three in particular need our attention if we are ever to move out of the rut Croatia is in. All three are all intimately connected.

Croatian electoral system provides almost brutally fertile ground upon which people have the least of chances in making decisions about whom they will vote into the parliament at general elections and political party chiefs have all the power on that. Party chiefs decide who will represent the voters and this creates the vicious circle where the chosen representative is loyal to the party chief rather than to the voters he/she is supposed to represent! The age of party democracy has passed as far as I am concerned and no doubt multitudes are at this juncture with me. Although the parties themselves remain, they have become so disconnected from the wider society, and pursue a form of competition that is so lacking in meaning, that they no longer seem capable of sustaining democracy in its present weak form, let alone develop it further as originally intended. People are not just alienated from the parties, but from democracy itself. Once, the parties connected the people to their sovereignty; now they trade the sovereignty away to corporations, transnational organisations like the World Bank and ethnic minorities whose interests are not the same as those of a sovereign Croatia born in the rivers of blood spilt during 1990’s Homeland War.

Economic management is no longer aligned with the will of the people but with demands of global capital. The inherent lack of political authority that arises from all this manifests in endless leadership changes as political parties look for a messiah rather than tackle structural reform.

The people don’t so much disengage as despair.

In a democracy the mainstream media industry is the industry people ask of more than of any other industry. We expect the media to be watchdogs, to hold government power accountable, to present the truth, to point out the unacceptable trends that hold back democracy – such as communist heritage in many who hold power. The profound problems occur when political parties or government in power control such mainstream media and for Croatian democracy this spells out catastrophe given the communist undertones in the control. This is a death spiral, one into which the media and the politicians are locked, keeping Croatia locked in a deadly cocktail of communism and aspiring activists for full democracy.

The modern state is designed around competing political elites, who are insiders in the system and many of whom are remnants of the former communist power machinery. The electoral system maintains this duopoly. Around this elite contest, a media is constructed and organised, party organisations exist to manufacture majorities to serve it. This system has been replicated over the past twenty or more years. The state, the party system, the media are all tied together in an enduring status quo that cannot be tolerated nor which can sustain democracy. More and more totalitarian-like or dictatorship-like decisions hurl out of governing and other hallways of state power.

That cri de coeur on unacceptability of the enduring status quo (the death spiral) was heard in the passionate words from General Zeljko Glasnovic, Member of Croatian Parliament for the Diaspora, who, Friday 15 September, confronted a journalist in Zagreb at a rally held against the slashing of the HRT TV show “Croatia today”.

UDBA (communist Yugoslavia secret police) leads your country … I represent the silent majority, and you represent the Khmer Rouge. Who do you have in parliament up there, former UDBA staff, who leads your country? Former UDBA operatives, communists and these people who hate the Croatian state, who never wanted it. You support them…people have been murdered here in order to get into their apartments, what’s with the return of forcefully taken properties, what’s with academic lustration, people don’t know what that is … you’re not in anything, you live in Croslavia …you have totally lost spiritual intelligence and that is the problem in the Croatian state, because that is communist mental heritage …who are you defending here …do you want the UDBA code names in those from the media …the biggest problem in Croatian media is that people can’t get to the truth …do you expect the truth from these people whose dossiers are in Belgrade …who would testify against their own people… communist mental frame is your problem and the problem of journalists in Croatia …ex-UDBA whose dossiers are in Belgrade …all praise to exceptions but until the media space is cleared we will not have a Croatian state, and the former communist operatives and Croatian media are to blame…wake up, ” Glasnovic said to the journalist while onlookers listened and stared with a noticeable dose of ashamed unease on their faces about the truth Glasnovic dished out, mincing not a single word of it.

Is it any wonder that people’s frustration with the political situation in Croatia never dissipates? It is like driving your car on a road full of potholes: you can change cars as often as you like, but until you fix the road, the ride will be bumpy. This could well metaphorise the political situation in Croatia Glasnovic was referring to – the one in dire need of lustration.

Is there a solution? Can we fix something when the tools to do it are the very things causing the problems?

Under such circumstances, there is only one way forward, and it is the same one that has ever got anything done ever: agitate. Fight for your cause, protest, make life uncomfortable for the keepers of the status quo. Demand better, much better. If all else fails drive forward into a revolution.

Zeljka Markic
Photo: Screenshot

A further activity promising activism in bringing about changes is that of Zeljka Markic, who heads “In the name of the Family” organisation in Croatia, calling for a referendum on the system members of parliament for ethnic minorities in Croatia are elected. Given the constant problems and state of agitation that’s tearing the country apart and coming from one of ethnic Serb minority representatives, Milorad Pupovac, at the peril of total disaster and humiliation of the Croatian identity one actually and seriously welcomes Markic’s initiative. Representatives for ethnic minorities in Croatia have for years been elected as “special candidates list”, and hence get a seat in parliament with just a handful of votes, and Markic’s proposal is that they should be elected like every other member of Croatian Parliament. Accused by some that she is promoting an anti-Serbian referendum Markic resolutely stated: “It’s not anti-Serb but it is anti-corruptive. We want to make sure that the voters are actually the ones who will be able to influence politicians. We wanted that when we had collected more than 300,000 signatures for a referendum,” said Markic at Croatian TV HRT

Markic promotes the equality of all Croatian citizens before the law and said that her organisation considers “that all Croatian voters should have an equal opportunity of influencing the political situation in Croatia. We also consider that the voters must have the right to postal or electronic voting. When it comes to members of ethnic minorities, those of Serb nationality who are Croatian citizens, of course we care that they feel at home here, but it is also very important to us that they are exposed to the same democratic criteria that all other citizens are exposed to,” said Markic in defence and explanation of the initiative for referendum on electoral system.

Political party system, electoral system and mainstream media are an orchestrated conspiracy in Croatia that stifles the needed clean and swift cut-away from former communist Yugoslavia regime – lustration. The season of escalated wielding of political, media and social activism intent on decommunising the country is now. Ina Vukic


An Interview With Julienne Busic

Julienne Busic
Photo: Ina Vukic

Julienne (Julie) Busic (maiden name Julienne Eden Schultz) is a successful American writer and a well known political activist (alongside her late husband Zvonko Busic) for the freedom of Croatia at the time (1970’s) when Croatia was still a part of the oppressive communist totalitarian regime of Yugoslavia, who, as well as her late husband, had spent significant time in American prisons in relation to their actions for Croatian freedom. Julie lives in Croatia and I have met with her; here’s my interview with her.


Julie, a great deal of intense happenings, both positive and negative, have marked your life for decades now because of your love for the idea and realization of Croatia’s  freedom from communism (Yugoslavia). Your love for your late husband Zvonko Busic has, I dare say, despite high risks to personal freedom and life’s comforts, emboldened you to join him in actions for freedom world-wide. Any regrets?


– First of all, I try to avoid labeling anything as negative or positive because one never knows. Many times I’ve thought something was negative and it turned out to be the opposite. I think we need to simply accept what is, without characterizing it, and use it to our advantage as best we can. Some things we can’t control, but we can control our impressions about things, in order to achieve a greater peace of mind.   As far as regrets, I try not to focus on that, either. It’s the past. Of course, I do have one deep regret, that an unintended death occurred during the course of our action, but as for the rest, it’s been an intense, fascinating, compelling, challenging, and interesting life. As Zvonko used to say, „don’t complain, you got a lot of interesting material from it for your books!“ But all kidding aside, it’s personally satisfying that the our idealism and sacrifice in the name of Croatian freedom were rewarded when Croatia became independent! And how many hijackers can brag that their victims came to visit them in prison and wrote letters of support to the sentencing judge? Several passengers and even employees of the airline are still in touch with me today! In fact, I just got a letter from one of them who had testified for the defense during our trial, wanting to know how I was doing.


The “Western world” seems to have adopted a warped and an unsavoury sense of justice when it comes to embracing or rejecting activities of freedom fighters – some have been and are labeled as terrorist while others of same or similar calibre are hailed as courageous and desirable. Many examples spring to mind including activities in the South African anti-apartheid movements and resistance often headed by Neilson Mandela, which had eventually been hailed as great and positive even though, history marks, some horrific crimes had been committed in the name of that freedom from the British imposed apartheid. The other side of that medal that has double-standards when it comes to judging freedom activism and fights, houses activities you yourself have taken an important part in during 1970’s for the freedom of Croatia from the oppressive and largely murderous communist Yugoslavia – and yet, those activities have been and still are seen by the world as terrorist. Do you have any comments on this assessment I make in regards to the world’s double standards revolving around genuine suffering of the people and their efforts in achieving freedom?


– I thought of Orwell’s 1984 as I considered this question. Whoever has control of information can direct how people think about people and events, and we see how it worked in the book which, by the way, has experienced a huge upsurge in sales in recent times. For obvious reasons. Much of the western mainstream media has a liberal bias, so Mandela and others who were idealogically similar enjoyed wide support around the world. Timing has a lot to do with it as well. The civil rights movement was in full swing when Mandela was arrested, so there were countless western organizations and governments supporting him. We shouldn’t forget, though, that until a few years ago, Mandela was on an American terrorist watch list! ( see: Nonetheless, he was received by all the leaders of the world and has streets, squares, and schools named after him. Croatian dissidents weren’t „modern“, nor did they have the vast network of support the Yugoslav government enjoyed throughout the world as a bulwark, although illusory, against Stalinism. As long as Yugoslavia existed, Croatia wasn’t needed and her dissidents and revolutionaries were branded fascists, extremists, and terrorists not just by Yugoslavia but their allies as well.   Once you gain power, as Croatia did after she won the war, things change, although not as quickly as we’d like. Until the non-democratic forces from the Communist era are stripped of political power in Croatia, there will be a continuation of attacks against freedom fighters (terrorists in their vocabulary), and the paradigm will remain the same as in the former Yugoslavia. One glaring example is the case of Ante Barisic, a professor at the U. of Zagreb. In former Yugoslavia, he worked for the secret police and participated in the torture and abuse of Croatian students in the 1980s, one of them Marko Grubisic. (see: Grubisic reported him, and has given both interviews and detailed information to the police about Barisic, but nothing has been done, and he is still teaching students to this day. Why? Because his compatriots are still in positions of power in Croatia and they appear to protect each other. Imagine the reaction in Australia, U.S., Canada, if a political science professor was exposed as a torturer of students in earlier years! It wouldn’t be tolerated. Yet he’s still here in Zagreb, teaching the future leaders of Croatia.

Zvonko and Julienne Busic

– You have been a permanent resident in Croatia for a number of years now, because of your activities for the freedom of Croatia during the life of the oppressive communist Yugoslavia, which have been marked as unlawful, to say the least, your access to your first homeland – the USA – has been made very difficult and probably at times a logistical nightmare. How do you cope with that reality of not being free to to choose your preferred route or “normal” way of going about visiting the place of your birth? What would you say is the hardest part of that reality?


– Yes, I’ve been a citizen of Croatia, not just permanent resident, since 1994. In fact, President Tudjman himself gave me my Croatian passport during one of his visits to Washington, D.C. while I was there. That was exciting!

As for my access to the United States, I have been a victim of the war against terrorism through no actions of my own; that is, since I was released from prison. Year after year, the security regime is tightened as a response to events in the U.S. and outside. In 2009, I found myself on the no fly list after a Nigerian man was caught concealing explosives in his underwear on a U.S. flight. He almost succeeded in detonating them! President Obama was furious, and after that, thousands of people found themselves on the no fly list. There are over 41,000 now, and 500 of them are American citizens. In order to get to America, I have to take a circuitous route which does not fly over American airspace. In recent years, I have had to go through Caracas, Venezuela, Bogota, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico City, and then by foot over the Tijuana border in to California. It’s absolutely surreal and absurd. Imagine arriving at midnight in Tijuana, a woman alone, and having to get to the border through one of the most dangerous areas in the world. Not to mention Caracas! It’s even more ridiculous considering that I had flown over 60 times prior to that into, out of, and within America with no problems whatseover. The ACLU has been working on the case for several years now, but the wheels of justice move very slowly. Meanwhile, we wait.


How has Croatia embraced you as one of its own after it fought and achieved the independence you, your late husband Zvonko Busic and other Croatian freedom fighters had fought for decades before? What was or is the best aspect of that welcoming into Croatia?


– Everyone who welcomed Croatian independence was welcoming to me, regardless of how they felt about our action, and that was wonderful. Of course, those who hadn’t were not, and that is also to be expected. What means the most to me is when total strangers write or come up to me on the street and tell me how much my books have meant to them, how much they were moved by our story, how much they admire our ideals, and so forth. Especially younger people, since they are our future.

Julie Busic (L) Ina Vukic (R)/Photo source

 You continue being involved in and working on things that emphasise the importance of Croatia’s 1990’s Homeland War and the value of independence. Can you please tall us about some of these undertakings and activities you are involved in or lead?


Our Foundation, (on Facebook: Zaklada Zvonko Busic Taik) which was established in honor of Zvonko, is doing a project on translations of books into English about the Homeland War. So far, Ante Nazor’s „The Croatian War of Independence“ and Ante Gugo’s „In the Eye of the Storm“ have come out in English. Zvonko’s memoirs, „All Visible Things“, which also deal with the Croatian struggle for independence, have also been published. All are available through Amazon. I’d also like to mention that the project was financed in part by a fantastic action from the Australian Croatian community, a radiothon during which a substantial amount was raised! We would welcome a second one, too!

Such books are critical, because still today, non-Croatians do not understand what happened here, and that is because the information is not out there. We must have excellent translations in English and other major languages, and they must be available around the world on Amazon so that everyone can order and read them. This has not been happening, and it is a criticism we have to direct to all the governments we have had here in Croatia. Culture is politics, we have to understand that, and culture is an area that has been neglected. We need books, books, and more books. And that is just the beginning. We also need films, documentaries, podcasts…


The way that I see it, you fall into the category of people who have returned from the diaspora to live in Croatia. Putting aside numerous invitations Croatian leaders have over the years made to the diaspora to return and/or invest, do you think Croatia’s address and dealing with the needs of the diaspora are adequate or do you think Croatia could do better in its pursuits for a unity in Croatian identity across the diaspora? How would you assess Croatia’s efforts in ensuring that homeland Croatia and the diaspora become one body?


– I really don’t know much about the specifics of this issue, and what has been done in the previous governments, but I know the return of Croatians was a priority for President Tudjman. From what I’ve heard from some who have returned, there must be substantial changes in our bureaucracy to draw people back. It’s so complex that most people just give up, and it could be so much easier. People wait months and even years for simple documents, and most could be totally dispensed with or combined, or completed over the internet.  And there is still a lot of corruption, a continuation of the mindset from former Yugoslavia, that unless you pay bribes, nothing gets done. At any rate, Croatia’s demographics are a cause for great concern. We need the diaspora, we want them to return with their families, share their expertise and knowledge, contribute their skills, but there has to be a better strategy.


Are there things that you would like to add here or any message you would like to convey?


– Once again, I’d like to thank the Croatian-Australian community for the support they’ve given us and our Foundation so that we are able to finance the books in English on the Homeland War. There’s such a sense of involvement in the community; they haven’t become apathetic and are always ready to help and contribute to good projects. That means a lot, because together we can get the truth out.

Prepared and written by: Ina Vukic

Croatia: Only People Of Integrity Must Vie For Public Office

Croatian National Revival Painting by Vlaho Bukovac 1895

Croatian National Revival
Painting by Vlaho Bukovac 1895

Almost 27 years into its existence and the Croatian Parliament often seems to struggle tolerating or even acknowledging those members who sit in it and who persist in naming policies of priority to be developed and implemented, which the government of the day has failed to address. Initiatives crucially important to the advancement of Croatia’s original goal of a functioning modern democratic state removed from its communist past articulated in the parliament’s chamber are never reciprocated with an intend-to-action or follow-up nod from the parliament’s chair. Regardless of the procedural constraints a parliament or any organisation of that matter may have, which on appearance may justify inaction on important initiatives from the parliament’s chamber, it is a fact, nevertheless, that a parliament exists to manage the State so that it ultimately delivers on its nation’s (people’s) yearnings and striving. And in Croatia, regretfully, one often gets the feeling that those in government think they know best as to how to govern the State and would rather see the whole country ruined than admitting needing assistance from those who actually do know a thing or two about governing particular strands of nation’s priorities. This, of course, is the fodder that feeds senseless and detrimental to the nation power trips of individuals. Somehow, among Croatian government leaders the notion of camaraderie and teamwork with the people is lost and yet it is precisely that element of governance that makes a democracy thrive.

From this, springs to mind the realisation that Croatia has not yet churned out enough true politicians that will deliver on what Croatia started out with delivering in 1990 – a functioning democracy, fair to its past, fair to its today and fair to its future in all aspects.

A well-developed civil society as a functioning arm of a well-developed and well-functioning nation includes the organisations that act in the public’s interest but are not motivated by profit or government. Croatia may from a bird’s point of view appear as a civil society because within it operate various organisations of NGO character as well as churches or workers’ unions (which all form a part of civil society) but in fact, serious issues stare one in the face – seeing that even the meaning of civil society, or rather its components, appear misconstrued or misunderstood in Croatia. For instance, we have often seen and heard the so-called politicians, the so-called highly regarded professionals as well as highly regarded political analysts, as well as journalists, complain about a view or a sermon delivered to the nation by a church and insisting that the State must be secular! Well of course the State is secular, but the church is also an important part of every civil society. Denying the church such a status in Croatia is yet another point in evidence how miserably communist trends still pervade important networks crucial for advancement of a nation there. Yet another example why civil society does not operate as it should in Croatia lies in the many NGO’s apparent close ties to the governing or to the oppositional “persuasion” because such loyalties may hold guarantees of continued financing for the NGO year in and year out; these NGO’s fail miserably at doing their job they are supposed to do – operate outside the government or government’s opposition or their influences, and should, upon review and inspection be disabled through government funding withdrawals or a complete overhaul (even lustration where necessary) of their head honchos.

A properly functioning Civil society may incite citizens to hate or love the people they elected into the parliament, or those they didn’t; it may persuade the people to hate the Parliament, it may persuade the people to change the configuration of representation of their parliament and the parameters of the nation’s Constitution, it may provide the essential jolt to bringing about changes within the society of crucial and progressive nature, but there is no way one can become a policy maker without becoming a politician. Engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers … without functional education and jumping cognitively constrictive barriers usually imposed by long-term pursuits in a particular profession have no adequate capacity to manage a State properly, as managing a State means including in ones management all the grassroots that do or may emerge and that is by its nature a tricky endeavour to achieve. Once professionals in a certain field, focus on effort and functional education, through which a transformation into good politicians is achieved, the State has a great chance of being governed as it deserves or as it should be.

Indeed, politics is the highest calling open to those who have the wisdom, vision, principle, and the courage and skill in managing a State and take the nation’s heartbeat to the heights of its own yearning.

Croatian society, like all others, is made up of factions with varied interests, aspirations, and value systems. The various factions don’t normally have equal influence, power, knowledge or wisdom. It is the regulation of these various interests that forms the principal task of modern, relevant legislation, and, therefore, good governance. A good government is one that sees itself as an arbiter, mediating the varying interests of the various groups whose actions may undermine the legitimate interests of any of the groups or the common interests of all through its various institutions, including the Parliament.

The widely present perception that politics is a dirty game is simply unfortunate. Politics may be a difficult game, fraught with dangers, but it doesn’t have to be dirty. What makes politics look dirty are big interests or lobbies bent on hijacking influence to advance their goals, which for the most part are injurious to national interest. And, Croatia is fraught with such dirty games where politics of the powerful protect even the most unacceptable, the most destructive forces inherited from its communist past such as nepotism, corruption and political elitism. Where fraud, nepotism and corruption lingering from communist days continue poisoning much of the progress Croatia should by now have made in its laboured path to a fair, just, modern democratic nation.

Politics is not something that intelligent, heroic and knowledgeable citizens should avoid. If there is any time that Croatia needs functionally educated, courageous people to represent the bone marrow of its independent existence – that time is now.

Croatia is in a desperate need for good politicians who will keep on task in delivering, or attempting to deliver, on major issues plaguing Croatia’s progress into a modern and solid nation that takes care of and guarantees a decent living for its people. Croatia is in a desperate need of politicians who will join all Croats into one functioning, breathing in unison and perfect accord, nation – those that live in Croatia and those that live abroad. Every Croat, everywhere, is in a position of responsibility and, in the final analysis the kind of government, the kind of politicians Croatia gets depends on how all Croats fulfill those responsibilities. Croatia, as with all other countries, will always get the political leadership, be it good or bad, that its people demand or deserve. Settling for second best, after Franjo Tudjman’s death in 1999, seems to have been the way because the best simply did not emerge or did not exist.

Politics need not be dirty, as often portrayed for whatever reason. Croats simply cannot afford keeping away from participating in politics either as voters, opinion leaders and policy makers. This I say in observation of a rather widespread opinion in Croatia and abroad that there’s no use doing anything because the prevailing “liberal” (read pro-communist in Croatia’s case) forces have suffocated any hope or trace of hope for the originally planned freedom, prosperity and democracy in Croatia. An overwhelming air of helplessness and surrender to apathy is dangerous for every one of us and for a nation – perilous! To get rid of dirty politicians, only people of integrity must vie for public office in Croatia and that integrity is the quality defined by the people and it must include the strength of endeavours to rid everyday Croatia of its communist past, of course, political parties do their damage through various modes of pressure and fear-mongering at this level, but – still – there is tomorrow!



General Zeljko Glasnovic Member of Croatian Parliament for the Diaspora

General Zeljko Glasnovic
Member of Croatian Parliament
for the Diaspora

Because of its relevancy to the point made in this article that politics need not be a dirty game but should be pursued by all who care about their nation, at this point I extract a question directed to General Zeljko Glasnovic, Member of Croatian Parliament for the Diaspora, by Slobodna Dalmacija journalist Snjezana Setka in August 2016 and his answer:

“Question: Are Croatian threatened with disappearance if they don’t get actively involved in politics?

Answer: If you tire of politics, that does not mean the end of politics, that means the end of that nation. You need time for a mental set to change. Look, in America you have more sects in one city than in the whole of Croatia. But the deadliest sect in which people were imprisoned for 50 years since the 19th century was Marxism-Leninism. And they have not come out of it. And you cannot move forward unless you accept certain things…

Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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