Croatia: Sovereignty Should Equal Decommunisation


“Croatian sovereignists” press conference
9 February 2019
Photo: Screenshot

It’s been several years since Croatian politics had entered largely uncharted waters of political survival and political assertion in a democratic system, which fundamentally promotes freedom of political and other association. The struggle for political survival and assertion in Croatia among the voting population, which has until 1990 lived for five decades under a one-party (communist) system, has shown the full plethora of rewards and backlashes that Western democracies have been seeing for much longer. But, for Croatia, assertion of this democracy has meant for political parties and citizens’ political initiatives swimming or sinking in unchartered waters, particularly when the need for political coalition or union is seen by some (or many) as rather imperative for political survival.

Croatia, as most countries of democratic tenure, has particularly in the last two decades seen minority governments elected where coalition with other parties was essential in order to form a government. The thorn in the eye over recent years has, it seems, been the coalition with ethnic minority political parties to form a government, which left and leaves among the population the uncomfortable notion that ethnic minorities are dictating the direction and reality of the Croatian state that is increasingly seen as “anti-Croatian”, “anti-sovereignist”. A particular discomfort and voter-irritation is associated with the government coalition with the Independent Serb Democratic Party/Milorad Pupovac. Indeed, such a coalition had also meant that much of kudos and deserved recognition and practice of Croatian Homeland War values had slowly and unacceptably fallen to the wayside. In all the desperation and hopelessness that has ensued, dozens of new political parties, dozens of new political citizens’ initiatives – “to save Croatia from utter ruin” – have emerged.

A new political culture is emerging in Croatia.

In this new political culture, attitudes that the right-wing/conservative politicians are the true sovereignists, true saviours of Croatia, and that the others (including current government) are globalists who want to destroy the Croatian national being, are emerging daily through some public media outlets as well as through social media. Moral judgments, political myths and realities, beliefs, and ideas about what makes for a good Croatian society appear to be dished out almost incessantly these days. When there are little or no practical solutions offered or visibly worked on for a better, “an ideal”, Croatian society, a state of political culture of confusion and wandering in unchartered waters emerges.

There is an increasingly present expression from the conservative, right wing political plethora in the community that all conservative political parties and leaders should unite and form a political force that would topple the current HDZ-led (Croatian Democratic Union) government at elections as well as drown the chances for SDP (Social Democratic Party), the other historically major political party, at coming elections. Even some of the media in Croatia is addressing this issue of late. At times they appear to suggest to the public that if a party or some political figure of note, from the conservative political orientation, does not join such a union then – well – then they “don’t want” to be a part of this “union of saviours”! That these are not sovereignists, is what’s suggested!

Nothing could be further from the truth, though!

There have been and there are numerous political parties, individuals and citizens’ initiatives that are and have carefully and specifically tended to the preservation and assertion of Croatian national interests and national being. If we accept that in a democracy, and we should accept it, a political party is created in order to benefit the people, either generally or on specific issues, then the concept of uniting with others for greater election results beckons the question what or who will need to compromise their vision for a better country.

And, is that compromise worth the union?

International experience of coalition politics shows that instability is never far away. Indeed, the Croatian experience also shows this. However, that doesn’t mean that tightly and clearly founded coalition cannot work – at least for the achievement of particular and specific goals the country must achieve to move ahead.

The relatively recent shenanigans in frequent changes of Croatian government, in fallings out between government coalition partners, are testimony of what can go wrong in coalitions that are set up badly or in a rush of electoral win euphoria. What began as a rift over the Agrokor, for example, between HDZ and MOST (Bridge), spilled over, threatened and demolished the then existing coalition in government and a new one had be devised.

Like a Formula One car, if something small fails, the whole complex machine can fall apart and come off the road.

Worldwide experience shows that there is a clear danger for coalition partners surrendering the uniqueness of their identity. They are forced to compromise to accommodate the policies of others indispensable to the numerical ability of the coalition to govern.

Coalitions can result in significant electoral gains. But involvement in coalition, or union into a political force for that matter, does have electoral backlashes, particularly if siding with some traditional enemies is present. Coalitions are also inherently adversarial. It’s a necessary condition that parties work together. But empirical evidence from across the world shows that the primary rationale for coalition formation is the acquisition of political power.

There is nothing inherently objectionable to this. The best intentions for positive change are of little consequence unless coupled with the power to implement them. The acquisition of power through legal means is therefore a legitimate and fundamental objective of any political party that has the best intentions for the people that it seeks to serve.

But this inevitably generates conflict as coalition partners continuously manoeuvre themselves to ensure that they get the best return for their investment in political compromise. While each must work together, the end goal for each party or citizens’ initiative is its own success. And sometimes fights among friends can lead to more destructive and enduring fallouts than fights among foes.

Lessons from Germany are that successful coalitions have been founded on written agreements that create formal structures for engagement among partners (e.g. allocating responsibilities for specific tasks/matters/issues to specific individual members of the union) but also, that great coalitions stand, after all, on wobbly legs. The recent emergence of the right wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) from a marginal party to the game-changer in federal and state politics shows that great coalitions do not necessarily cater for all significant needs, emerging needs and aspirations among the people.

When a political coalition or union is assembled among several strong, and capable, political leaders the inevitable result is that only one can be seen as “The” leader and the others fall behind. This, in a strong sense, means that the country loses on active individual political leadership pool and, consequently, the diminution of that pool of needed publicly active innovation.

International experience shows a clear and direct relationship between well written coalition agreements and the stability of the coalition/union. But they’re not easily enforceable. That’s because they’re political agreements rather than legal agreements.

Therefore, the only way to ensure that coalition partners stick to a deal is to offer each partner enough benefits to ensure that it derives more political advantage by staying in the coalition, than if it were to ‘go it alone’ or offer its allegiances elsewhere.

On Saturday 9 February 2019, in Croatia’s capital Zagreb, a union of some right wing/conservative political parties, some citizens’ initiatives and associations was announced at a press conference. This political union calls itself “Croatian Sovereignists” and members say sovereignism is their platform for political engagement. Leading personalities from the small Hrast party (Ladislav Ilcic, Hrvoje Zkanovic MP, retired general Zeljko Sacic) Ruza Tomasic MEP from small Croatian Party of Rights Dr Ante Starcevic, Marijan Pavlicek of small Croatian Conservative Party, heads of a couple of critizens’ initiative including of Truth About the Istanbul Convention and Croatian Bedem (Bulwark) and associations spoke at the press conference.

President of Hrast Ladislav Ilcic said that the Croatian people seek the unity of all those who see Croatia as a sovereign state. He believes that the new political platform will achieve excellent results in the upcoming European and later Croatian parliamentary elections. “Plenkovic’s HDZ has turned sharply to the left and Croatia under that leadership has become one of the most open countries that follow globalist ideas that are very often in contradiction with Croatian national interests, Croatian pride and values that Croatian people have fundamentally determined over the centuries,” Ilcic said.

So we need people who will represent us with an open mind, who don’t hesitate saying what they think and what is best for Croatia and that we don’t go to Brussels for our opinion but with our opinion. If the voters decide to continue supporting those who are for a big Europe, when we become marginalised, no one will be to blame but ourselves,” Ruza Tomasic said.

Hrast representative at Croatian Parliament, Hrvoje Zekanovic, said that the Croatian sovereignist means to be against the Istanbul Convention imposed by the EU, against the Marrakech Agreement as it is bad for Croatia, for the blocking of Serbia on its way to the EU so that aggression against Croatia could finally be recgonised and acknowledged and war damages paid/compensated as well as for defending the rights to life and defending the Croatian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina and on question of the diaspora.

When asked by journalists whether they have approached other political parties and citizens’ initiatives to join this union Ilcic said that they were “…open for collaboration with all those who think like we do, who have similar opinions regarding Croatia as we do …they say that they are going to elections independently, the future will show if that is good…”.

One would prefer to have heard at the press announcement some more concrete, practical ways this political union intends to strengthen the sovereignty of the Republic of Croatia. To list the blocking Serbia on its path to the EU, or getting Serb aggression against Croatia finally recognised or ensuring compensation for war damages just isn’t enough, nor most important – by a long shot. This way the press conference felt more like the springboard to an election campaign than an organised body o forces that is clear on all paramount tasks for the future of Croatia.

The most important platform for real sovereignty of Croatia are decommunisation and lustration.

It goes without saying that were Croatia to rid itself from largely ineffective public administration riddled with corruption it would inject new trust, new optimism for the much needed foreign investment in the country that would stabilise if not improve the much ailing economy. Clearing of former communists and their like-minded people from public administration either physically or through new and tightened regulations and laws is the only and natural step to full sovereignty. I say this because the Homeland War was fought and won in order to establish full democracy and you cannot have a full democracy with so much of the communist Yugoslavia practices, conducive to corrupt practices, in public administration continuing practically unimpeded. Ina Vukic

Croatia: HDZ Purges – Another One Bites The Dust?

Jadranka Kosor    Photo: Ranko Suvar/ Cropix

Jadranka Kosor Photo: Ranko Suvar/ Cropix

Whether one likes or dislikes Jadranka Kosor as a politician, as a former president of Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ and former Prime Minister of Croatia is beside the arguably moot point of the party’s recent and current self-cleansing frenzy. Yesterday (Thursday 18 April 2013) the final nail had been driven into Kosor’s HDZ membership coffin – she was expelled from HDZ (leading parliamentary party in opposition).

Jadranka Kosor, took over the premiership of Croatia in turmoil after her predecessor Ivo Sanader was forced to resign in 2009 in a whirl of corruption scandals, and then wrapped up her Croatia’s accession talks with the EU.

The December 2011 general elections saw Kosor and HDZ lose government and gain increasing public disdain.

HDZ took the necessary steps any political party would take in the aftermath of significant electoral loss: it voted Kosor out as its leader and voted the current incumbent Tomislav Karamarko in. It also claimed to being committed on embarking upon a vigorous path of “cleansing itself” from those not worthy of party membership, or those that have, according to them, compromised themselves in some “publicly” obvious way. It wowed vehemently to return to its political roots – Franjo Tudjman’s ideals, and correct the wrongs done unto the party (and Croatia) through de-Tudjmanisation of the party and the society in the past decade or so.

Kosor considers that the HDZ’s court of honour decision to strike her from the party’s membership was in contradiction to the party’s statute and a precedent because of the “arguments and the way that job was done,” adding that she had informed the European People’s Party of which the HDZ is a member, of the entire matter – reports daily.tportal.

She added that several lawyers had advised her that she had grounds to file a constitutional complaint against the party and that she was contemplating this possibility.

She once again rejected the explanation by the party court of honour which claimed that she had caused damage to the party’s reputation, claiming that she had not said anything against the party or its leadership and all she had done was to reject the incumbent party president Tomislav Karamarko’s statements that the party’s former leadership had de-Croatianised and de-Tudjmanised the party.
She concluded that she considered that she had achieved a lot as a politician, minister and prime minister.

Kosor, people said, ran the risk of being expelled from HDZ when she recently gave an interview to Globus weekly in which she criticized the party’s president, Tomislav Karamarko.

Karamarko, himself, was party (HDZ) member from the beginning of the nineties, but his party status was frozen for years because of reported quarrels with the then party president, dr Franjo Tudjman.

Karamarko led Stjepan Mesic’s presidential election campaign in 2000 – the times in Croatia’s political life when there was no greater, hateful enemy of Franjo Tudjman and HDZ.  Mesic started his fierce, abominable campaign against Franjo Tudjman during the nineties and continued with it ever since then. His palpably insidious push to criminalise and politically prostitute the Croatian Homeland War spreading hearsay a fact (particularly the one about Tudjman’s meeting at Karadjordjevo in 1991, which led much of the world to believe that Tudjman and Slobodan Milosevic had made an agreement to enter into war and divide Bosnia and Herzegovina between Serbia and Croatia), his vilification of Tudjman, his spin of hatred and his failure to uphold the righteousness of Croatia’s defence from Serbian aggression have been labelled by many as acts of treason.

When Tudjman died in 1999, Ivo Sanader became the leader of HDZ and appointed Karamarko as interior minister in 2008.

Kosor invited Karamarko to rejoin HDZ party in 2011.

So, now, Karamarko accused Kosor of de-Tudjmanising and de-Croatianising HDZ and she decided to defend herself in public. She most likely went public because the party’s corridors just did not want to know. HDZ in its cleansing frenzy and in attempting to create a whole new image (New Time – New Forces) had to, I suppose, blame someone for the so-called de-Tudjmanisation and de-Croatianisation and there’s no better opportunity for finger pointing than when someone goes public on “party” matters!?

If Karamarko was serious about cleansing HDZ from de-Tudjmanisers and de-Croatianisers within the party why would he not target the oldest members who were there, in important party roles all along, long before Kosor, while the de-Tudjmanisation was happening at full steam!? Vladimir Seks, whose political Use-by date had expired long ago, springs to mind. But so do others.

Perhaps it’s because it’s not about cleansing the party of de-Tudjmanisers as well as of corrupt practices but about delusions of grandeur that HDZ seems to suffer from! After all, Karamarko did say in December 2012:

At this moment HDZ is the mechanism which must secure the existence and the pride of Croats and Croatia and a more qualitative life, and if HDZ disappears so will the authentic Croatia.”

Now, that is truly a whopper of a delusion of grandeur that HDZ has. Totally offensive to the majority of Croatian citizens, who are not members of HDZ and who have defended and participated in the creation of “authentic Croatia”.

When Karamarko was minister of internal affairs in Kosor’s government cabinet he gained much reverence and public admiration when he went head-on against Communist crimes, prosecuting or attempting to prosecute for WWII and post-WWII Communist crimes. I myself was impressed, because bringing justice for victims of communist crimes was and still is a paramount issue when it comes to reconciling the past for the full benefit of the nation’s future.

This issue seems to have been thrown into backwaters when Kosor ceased to be at the head of HDZ.

Most disappointing!

If the recent EU Parliament elections are to go by, HDZ did not do well despite winning seats. In fact the greatest victory glory HDZ celebrated belongs to Ruza Tomasic, leader of Croatian Party of Right dr Ante Starcevic who ran in coalition with HDZ. Translated into the context of HDZ’s “New Time – New Forces” slogan, which suggests that HDZ has cleansed itself of negative elements (people), put corruption behind it, these election results point to the view that voters are still sitting on the fence on the matter of “HDZ purity”, or are well behind it.

If I were in Kosor’s place I’d pursue all legal avenues available, and try and restore myself into HDZ’s membership. And then, upon success in the legal action, I would tear up the HDZ membership card and shove the pieces where “the sun don’t shine”!  It’s a matter of principle, of self-respect, of loving Croatia!

This is possible (of course, depending on laws of the country). I did it myself in mid-nineties when I was expelled from HDZ in Australia after exposing corruption and improper dealings. I took the case to NSW Supreme Court, was reinstated into HDZ membership and then ended my membership in the party on my terms, on just terms. That is how democracy works – if you cannot achieve justice through dealing with people, you turn to the courts of law. You hold your head high, you continue loving Croatia and you continue exposing improper and unjust matters that cross your paths in life. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Related Post

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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