Croatia: A Nation’s Unrelenting Grief and Suffering On 29th Anniversary of Serb Aggression

Zeljko Glasnovic (Top centre), Jure Buric (bottom right corner), Tomislav Mercep (bottom right centre), Mato Mostarac (top right)

It has been a balmy breeze I stood in all this poignant week in Sydney, Australia, as I watched and participated in the profoundly moving emotions of the grieving Croatian nation. It was a week of the 29th anniversary of the blood-soaked fall of Vukovar in 1991, of bestial massacres of Croatians by Serbs in Skabrnja, of the death of widely revered hero who tried with all his might and unstoppable courage to prevent the Yugoslav and Serb aggressor decimating the Croatian people – Tomislav Mercep (according to multitude of credible claims, convicted by Croatian courts of war crimes on basis of trumped-up charges) and the death of dr. Anto Kovacevic, political prisoner of former communist Yugoslavia and a fearless activist for democratic and independent Croatia. I faced and saw multitudes of inconsolably sobbing widows, widowers and grown children, brothers, sisters, neighbours… of those Croatians whose life was brutally and cruelly cut short in the 1990’s during the Serb aggression against Croatia.

To make matters horribly worse and to keep the Croatian nation in perpetual grief (and anger) Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and his government, which comprises of Serbs associated with 1990’s bloody aggression against Croatia, in this same week announces a new law that would provide war pensions even to the Serb civilian victims of the 1990’s in Croata! The agony Plenkovic and his government are inflicting upon Croatian victims of Serb aggression has no bounds it seems.

This Croatian government’s mindset is deplorable and depraved.  

As far as I can see that new law does not even take into consideration the fact that most Serb civilians in the rebel-Serb areas of Croatia brutalised, ethnically cleansed of Croats, occupied for years by those Serbs, would not satisfy the definition of civilians because they were complicit in one way or another with the aggression, tortures, banishments of Croats, murders … any so-called Serb civilians participated in Serb hostilities against Croats in Croatia before and during the Homeland War and the new law and its regulation does not appear to provide measures of essential proof as to who was a “true” civilian and who was a “civilian combatant”, helping willingly the anti-Croat Yugoslav and Serb military on their path of destruction, murder, genocide, torture, rape, ethnic cleansing.

I did not see during this week of mourning in Croatia either the Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic or the President Zoran Milanovic summon the people of Croatia to look beyond grief, to believe that the deaths they mourned had not been in vain. The President Zoran Milanovic laid a wreath in Vukovar’s Ovcara memorial field where the Serbs in 1991 slaughtered hundreds of Croatian wounded and sick, carting them off to their execution at that spot from the devastated Vukovar Hospital but je said not a single word while or after laying the wreath; his lips did not move, not even in silent prayer for the slaughtered victims. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic walked with the procession from Vukovar’s hospital to the Ovcara killing field, saying that “it is important to pursue information about those still missing,” from the Homeland War. But in that procession of remembrance he took with him his deputy prime minister, Boris Milosevic, a Serb, who came to Vukovar to lay a wreath for the aggressor and murdering Serbs who died during their bestial attacks against Croatians!

Speaking about the presence of Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milosevic in the procession of remembrance in Vukovar, Plenkovic said that “Croatia won the Homeland War and thus extended a hand for coexistence to minorities… These are the messages of the future, focused on the values we share…” To add salt to the wounds of the atrocious attempts to equate the victims with the aggressor in Croatia, the Special Envoy of the President of Serbia for Resolving the Issue of Missing Persons with Croatia, Veran Matic, also huddled in Vukovar with a wreath for victims. His presence is mockery of Croatians, both fallen and living – both he and Serbia’s President Aleksander Vucic have and had means to access information about the missing Croatians from the days of aggression and still after almost 30 years they all keep silent with that information, hiding it on purpose.  And there are no messages to that effect coming from either the President or the Prime Minister of Croatia!

As to Serb civilians being “civilian combatants” in aid of Serb aggression against Croatia I am reminded this week of the heart-wrenching story of a Croatian man from Croatia’s Vukovar who ended up in Sydney, Australia, to recover from unspeakable tortures by the hand of Serb “civilians” during the 1990’s after the International Red Cross had come across the Manjaca concentration camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mato Mostarac told his harrowing story in 1995 to the ABC TV documentary program Four Corners, which was producing the award-winning documentary film “The Coward’s War”, headed by Australia’s renowned investigative journalist Chris Masters. I myself assisted as psychologist and interpreter in the interviewing for the documentary film of the deeply traumatised survivors of Serb aggression.

Mato Mostarac’s Serb neighbours in Vukovar broke into his yard in late August 1991, beat his wife who cowered in pain and was paralysed from it, and forcefully took him with other Croats in a truck to the Begejci concentration camp in Serbia, for a while in Begejci and then transferred to the Serb-held Manjaca concentration camp (Bosnia and Herzegovina); a death camp of brutality unseen since WWII. Serbs cut and chopped Mato and the other Croatian victims with a razor blade over their bodies and faces, tortured and raped or forced them to watch a detainee father rape his detained son and vice versa… Many indications show that Serb civilians were largely not civilians but cruel torturers and murderers of Croats, in aid of the communist and Serb aggression against Croatia. When I met Mato Mostarac, his whole face and body were marked with numerous thin and long scars from razor blade cuts… Here is a bit of what Mato Mostarac told us at the shooting of the 1995 Australian state television documentary ABC “The Coward’s War”:

„After they (Serbs) took their turns I was completely covered in blood. I had a white jumper on, and everything was soaked in blood. I ate all my blood, dried blood, it dried all over me. I’d pluck it together with the fibres from the jumper and all that. I’d eat all that event the blood from my hair. I ate everything … hungry…hungry…and they just give you water…“

As to the passing of Tomislav Mercep and on the fact that some consider Mercep a national hero while others (mainly die-hard communists of former Yugoslavia) consider him a war criminal, here is what, according to Fenix Magazine, Croatian newspaper base din Germany, dr Jure Buric (wartime Mayor of devastated Dubrovnik, former member of Croatian Parliament) said this week:

„Tomislav Mercep – for some a hero, for others a criminal. The latter have a court verdict they can wave around for something like that, and the former have common sense and a good memory of his heroic deeds at a time when a rifle and a cannon and a pencil and a bad word attacked him and his homeland. Is it heroism to defend his home? It is! Is it heroism to defend your people? It is!

And? – there is further and no further. There is no further, because when a man defends himself, he can do something dishonourable, but even that dishonourable deed should be viewed through the prism of reality and the moment when we cannot all control our emotions and actions, because it is not a ballroom dance with pleasant music and chess. The buzzing of bullets and destructive grenades are the music here, and on the board are living, not wooden figures. So who is who ?! A punishment is enough for an honest man if he realises that he did something dishonourable, because he has to live with it. He doesn’t even need a punishment that will make the other side happy and drive him to the grave ahead of time.

For such a thing, courts and court scales are needed, on which everything should not be thrown in order for the desired party to prevail.

With Tomislav Mercep, the court scales tipped against him and it was not easy for him or us to watch the hero rot, like my friend the late prefect Đuro Brodarac (who died in prison), who was met by the same fate.

Only you, the latter, rejoice in his death, but know that there are infinitely many more of the former – those who mourn him and pray to God for his soul!“

As to Veran Matic’s visit to Vukovar this week representing Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic, retired general and former Member of Croatian Parliament, Zeljko Glasnovic, summarised so clearly and aptly the widespread sentiments across Croatia and its diaspora in his Facebook status:

„Veran, continue to be “faithful to your fatherland” and do not tell empty stories once a year when you come to Croatia. What kind of reconciliation are you talking about, what kind of cooperation and search for the missing are you talking about? You know where they went missing, why don’t you tell us Veran? You come to worship falsely and provoke false sympathy. Did you lay a wreath in the centre of Vukovar where in April, 45 years ago, 200 most prominent citizens of Vukovar were killed by the army that fought under the same five-pointed star under which Vukovar was destroyed in ’91? Did you lay a wreath at a mass execution site near Vukovar where 400 Croatian soldiers were killed by the same communist villains at the same time?

You will show the true respect you are talking about only when you say ‘SORRY, WE HAVE COMMITTED AGGRESSION AGAINST CROATS, we killed you, we raped your wives, we killed your children, we looted and burned your homes, we demolished your churches, we took out eyes, cut off hands, ears and fingers of your defenders, we buried them in pits, because of us mothers do not know where the graves of their children are, we have turned your people into refugees, we killed civilians and the wounded, we massacred them, we abused them, we are still silent today about where your missing are, SORRY WE REPENT.’

The persistent equating of the victim with the aggressor does not make your kneeling credible, Veran, no matter how much you cause your knees to bleed in Ovcara and other execution sites, you and those who will come after you. Veran, what kind of delay in normalisation and the search for the missing are you talking about? There is no delay, WE do not know Veran where our people disappeared to, YOU know and are silent. Who’s at a standstill here?

Tell us, Veran, who carried out the aggression on Croatia – we defended ourselves, and died while defending our country for the freedom of our people. After your ‘pal’ Sljivancanin (Veselin) was released from prison (after serving two-thirds of 17-year sentence for ICTY war crimes in Vukovar conviction) he gave a statement that ‘he did not finish his job in Vukovar’, and you would like to reconcile? You are covering up crimes against Croats just as all Croatian governments are covering up the communist crimes from World War II.

Veran, until the last bone is found, until you all kneel and cry over your crimes, until all your war criminals are punished, until you pay the last penny, until you admit aggression, until you open the archives, NONE of you need to come to any of our anniversaries. ALL of you, Veran, are persona non grata in Croatia for me. And not only you, but also half of our government that cooperates with you as the UDBA (communist Yugoslavia Secret Services) did to cover up and forget as many crimes as possible. A prime example of this, despite all the relevant evidence, is the honourable man Nikola Kajkic, who exposed you and was no longer suitable for our institutions while in the case of the betrayal and surrender of our generals to The Hague they were very expeditious and quick: “Locate, identify, arrest, transfer “. You just continue kneeling, Veran, our killed people also knelt before you as you (all)  brutally executed them – but they received no mercy.“

No memorial or monument to Croatian suffering such as Ovcara/Vukovar and Skabrnje during the 1990’s Homeland War should be a diving board for politics and especially not the politics of equating the victim with the aggressor. This is unacceptable, cruel and designed to keep the Croatian people who fought for and defended Croatia and Croatians for independence. Perpetual grief for the sufferings Croatians endured or fell victim to has not yet steeled the Croatian people for the future they lost rivers of blood for in the Homeland War. Grief should unite towards building a better future but, alas, the Croatian government and leadership continue interrupting that positive outcome from national grief…their sights are set on diminishing the value and the direction Croatian people took at the risk of their own lives from the very bloody dawn of Serb aggression. Time to put the foot down against the thugs in Croatian government and leadership who equate brazenly and cruelly the victim with the aggressor. Ina Vukic

Croatia: Remember The Months of November!

The month of November is coming up.

In 1942 it was the month that, I believe, sealed the brutal fate of Croatian independence for decades to come like no other in the history of Croatian people.

It was the month that saw the communists of Yugoslavia hold their first organised congresses or meetings at which the communists, opposing the fight for and the creation of an independent Croatia, declared themselves as legitimate representatives of the Yugoslav people, that is, peoples living within the territory of the failed Serb-led Kingdom of Yugoslavia. This was the time when Croatia had already declared independence from the dark Kingdom of Yugoslavia and was fighting for it amidst German occupation and communist aggression to save Yugoslavia. The criminal thugs against freedom, the communists put on the cloak of “antifascism” and convened the so-called Antifascist Council of the People’s Liberation of Yugoslavia/ ”AVNOJ” (Bihac 26 November 1942 and Jajce 29-30 November 1942).

The fact was and remains that the communists’ army, the Partisans, under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito, were nothing more than terrorists, torturers and mass murderers – for power and control over multiple nations and their territories (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia). The tragedy of this for the plight of Croatians for self-determination and independence was not only the fact that this plight was murderously silenced during WWII, it continued after WWII and it continues to this very day even though Croatia had won its war of independence in 1990’s and its formal breakaway from communist Yugoslavia in October 1991.

The tragedy against Croatian independence and democracy continues to this day perhaps because the wretched AVNOJ is embedded into the Croatian Constitution giving it wrongfully some credit in the historical achievements or milestones in the path to independent Croatia of today. This fact gives wings to former communists and their subscribers to continue running down Croatian independence and to continue giving Serbs and their declared anti-Croat Chetniks a power in decision-making at the high levels of Croatian politics and, therefore, awful macabre reality.

The reality is that the process of equating the Croat-victim with the Serb-aggressor of 1990’s Croatia remains on the appalling government’s agenda and this is done under a pretence of desired reconciliation just like the WWII Yugoslav communists killed off the Croatian independence fight under a pretence of antifascism! And hence, the history of Croatian independence plight was written by communists, filled with lies and half-truths against Croats and the same continues today where Serbs play a major part in this.     

Between 1945 and 1948, the Yugoslav communist government punished wartime fighters for the independence of Croatia. British forces in Austria captured members of disarmed Croatian Ustashe and Home-Guard forces along with thousands innocent refugees. These were returned to Yugoslavia, where Partisans summarily executed thousands of innocent Croats. The Communists often used collaboration charges to stifle political and religious opposition, as well as economic and social initiatives that would see communist Yugoslavia bankrupt anyway. The Roman Catholic Church bitterly opposed the new communist order. After the war, the Yugoslav authorities executed over 200 priests and nuns charged with participating in alleged Ustashe atrocities. The Yugoslav communists had kept open the Jasenovac camp in Croatia until about 1951 (!), which was labelled as a concentration camp where the Holocaust came to life with the extermination of Jews and others. Any attempts to research the true nature and numbers of Jasenovac victims are being dealt harsh blows – they gets called historical revisionism, with negative connotations, of course.

The irrefutable fact remains that open and unequivocal communist denunciations of anti-Semitism and reported exterminations of the Jews was not of any importance to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. Indeed, the Communist Party made no efforts, urgent or otherwise, in any rescue of Jews. Whether that was because within it were many powerful Serbs who were evidently agreeable to Serbia being proclaimed Jew-free in 1942 after the extermination of some 94% of Jews in Serbia, is a point that deserves attention of historians, and political analysts. On the contrary, proclamations against anti-Semitism by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia were few and painfully sporadic, and acts of rescue or aid even more rare and painfully sporadic. Most importantly, however, the question of anti-Semitism and the unfolding European-wide Nazi genocide simply did not figure prominently on the Yugoslav communists’ agenda – which itself is a revealing fact about their ‘Jewish policy’, insofar as there was a consistent policy, or even one at all. Rescue of the Jews from the hands of the Nazis or any of their collaborators was thus never formulated as a stated objective of the Yugoslav communists.

The rescue of Jews in WWII Croatia was a strong characteristic in Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac’s efforts, indeed. He was not a communist sympathiser and, hence, to this day his enormously good deeds are more or less ignored and shunned by the powers in Croatia that have among them a large number of former communists and a relatively large number of anti-Croatian independence Serbs.

The Yugoslav Communists with their Serb Chetnik partners go to enormous lengths in covering up the atrocities they committed against freedom-loving Croats. The discovery of some 1000 mass graves of victims of communist and Chetnik crimes on Croatian soil after Croatia set on its path of independence from Yugoslavia in 1990 is a disturbing witness to the Partisans’ terrorism and murder and torture. It’s almost every week that Croatia learns of new crimes committed against its people during WWII and after WWII.

Very few people know, for example, about the gruesome Chetnik massacre of Croats that took place on the territory of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in Dugopolje near the city of Split. The crime began on October 2, 1942 and lasted for several days. Don Mijo Marović from Mravinci (Split) reported the crime to the NDH authorities on October 19, 1942. In the Chetnik massacre in Dugopolje and Kotlenice, 32 Croats were killed in the most brutally possible ways: by throwing them into the fire, gouging out their eyes while they were alive, breaking their skulls, cutting off and pulling out their hearts, etc. See full article on Narod.hr portal.

In reporting these atrocities to the NDH authorities don Kajo Marovic wrote on 19 October 1942: “… According to the above-mentioned years, it can be seen that the people who died were all old and could not escape and were weak children. Four of these were thrown into the fire, where they ended up in the most severe torment. Seven were killed with revolvers, and the rest were all slaughtered and brutally tortured. Some had their skulls cut open, their brains removed, others had their eyes gouged out alive, they were tortured and slaughtered. Others had their hearts taken out again and thrown into the field. Once they cut off a man’s head, then put his head on a pig and placed it among the horses and pigs they slaughtered. They were disfigured, it was a horror to watch them. All were buried on October 5 in the church cemetery in Dugopolje, and some even later, when they were found.

All the people of Dugopolje, 3,200 inhabitants, fled before these horrors to Dicmo, Sinj, Klis, from where they have not yet returned home from fear. One part of the people returned and took refuge in the houses that were spared. A large number of people do not even think of returning, because they have nowhere to come or anything to live on…”

For a thorough presentation of details of communist’s and Chetnik’s victims in Digopolje area I would recommend the reading of the 2011 book by Blanka Matkovic and Josip Dukic: “The Victims of Dugopolje” (Dugopoljski  žrtvoslov).  

As in November 1942 so too in November 1991 the Croatian plight for independence was suffocated with atrocities committed against it. In November 1991 the Serb and Yugoslav forces massacred hundreds of Croatians in Vukovar and its nearby Ovcara and expelled more than 20,000 Croats from that Croatian town! In November 1991 Vukovar was ethnically cleansed of its non-Serb population amidst the rivers of Croatian blood spilled for Croatia’s independence.

As Croatia in November 2020 marks commemorations of Vukovar and sufferings of Croats during the 1990’s Homeland War for independence it should also remember November 1942! The same suffering and terror were put in place, installed, in 1942 as were in 1991.

AVNOJ or Yugoslav communists have no place in the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia and I would personally like to see that all commemorations of victims for Croatian independence also begin to include a strong pressure and resolve to remove the mention of AVNOJ from the Constitution as a contributor to the creation of the modern democratic and independent Croatia. AVNOJ stopped independence in WWII, AVNOJ tried to stop independence during 1990’s. The truth must begin to root out the communist lies, the Serb lies and what a good time for that is November 2020! AVNOJ was written into the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia in 1990 – at the time when president Franjo Tudjman and leading figure in the movement for the independence of Croatia hoped for reconciliation between all WWII sides but since then Croatia had endured a war and an ongoing onslaught against full independence from former communists/Partisans and of course anti-Croatia Serbs. Surely, evidence enough that former communists have not given up on carrying a torch for the criminal regime that communist Yugoslavia was and even carrying a torch for the Greater Serbia lies and destructive depravities. Ina Vukic

Croatia: In The Throes Of Threat Of Illiberal Democracy

 

Dr Franjo Tudjman
Ushers Croatia Out Of Communism – 1991
Photo: http://www.franjotudjman.hr

November 2019 marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. While for Germany it meant reunification of the country, for communist countries in Europe it meant fall of communism, fall of totalitarian regime, was imminent. For Croats living abroad at the time who pined for democracy and freedom, who fled communist Yugoslavia due to political oppression that made living in Yugoslavia virtually a harsh battle for mere survival and even life-threatening the fall of the Berlin Wall echoed with real prospects for Croatia’s independence from Yugoslavia. Sweeter echoes could not have reached their ears and hearts and minds.

Personally, my greatest hope was for Croats living in Croatia and those living outside it to experience freedom. The freedom experienced by people living in full democracies laced richly with opportunities for advancing own life and pursuit of individual expression without fear of reprisals that threaten one’s existence and progress in life. My greatest concern, though, was to experience the brutality of power, and in general, of human nature once harsh communist operatives and pro-Yugoslavia apparatchiks start feeling the heat of rejection.

I recall three key moments from that time. Reading Croatian press published in the diaspora with Dr Franjo Tudjman (the first president of independent modern Croatia) writing about real possibilities of seizing the moment (of the fall of Berlin Wall) and going head-on together with Croatian diaspora in the move to establish a free and independent Croatia. Formation of multiple political parties in Croatia and first multi-party election to form the new Parliament in 1990 after 45 years of communist Yugoslavia totalitarian rule. The independence or secession from Yugoslavia referendum in May 1991 and the phone calls I received from Croatia which all in sweet excitement said words to the effect: “it’s all going to be alright; Croatia will be independent.”

My response was always – I fear all is not going to be alright; the communists are a wild, brutal lot and will not relinquish their power just because 94% of voters voted “Yes” to independence at the referendum. And so, all was not alright – Serb and Yugoslav Army onslaught against Croatia unleashed a horrific war of aggression in Croatia, murderous taking of tens of thousands of lives, ethnic cleansing of Croats from one third of Croatian territory, vicious destruction of Croatian homes, religious and cultural buildings and property.

My biggest hope was that Croatia would adopt the Western democratic values. That Croatian youth will have the same opportunities to advance in life as our children living in the West had.

Thirty years on and Croatia in independent and a member state of the European Union. Democracy seems to have won, but recent political developments and revival of nostalgia for the former communist rule indicate a path towards illiberal democracy. Former communists, or their kin, sit is chairs of power; mainstream media is controlled by those who continue smothering Croatian patriotism and love for Croatian people. One of the biggest challenges to democracy today is posed by the dramatic change in the political-party landscape. Attention understandably has focused on the rise of a variety of populist candidates and movements, but what has enabled their rise is the drastic decline in support for the parties that had long dominated the political scene. Without grossly exaggerating, one can say that for decades the modal configuration of Croatia’s political systems has featured strong centre-left and centre-right parties or coalitions that support the basic principles and institutions of liberal democracy but compete with each other in regard to a variety of specific issues within this larger framework. Current public recriminations that both centre-left and centre -right major parties have not delivered on the initial promise of full democracy and are equally guilty of holding tight to the processes and mindset commensurate with former communist regime and undemocratic mindset has particularly clipped the wings of popularity for the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). While left (whether centre or not) had always been seen as an extract from former staunch communist regime, HDZ is increasingly criticised as being the same with its apparent distancing from its original aim, a democratic state of Croatian people. These days virtually every new round of elections indicates that this longstanding pattern of dominance by the centre-left and centre-right is losing its hold.

Today, much of Croatian society is sick. What is worse, a significant part of it refuses to get cured from communist mindset; lustration has not occurred and every mention or attempt to usher in an organised lustration process is quashed or ridiculed. Communist nostalgic keep churning out fairy tales about how good life was in Yugoslavia, forgetting the cruel drop in living standards once Western financial assistance turned the taps off; forgetting the fact that Yugoslavia (and hence Croatia) had some 1300% inflation by 1989, which saw supermarket shelves bare, petrol severely rationed when available, thousands of companies and employers unable to pay wages to its workers for months upon months…

The source of this state of mind, the state of mind that refuses to be cured from communist mindset, seems to be a feeling that Croatia (and other former communist Eastern European countries, indeed) is just a buffer zone between East and West. Croatia, after 30 years of the fall of the Berlin Wall still levitates within parameters where either going forward into full democracy or moving backward into a state-controlled existence are possible. The vocabulary of totalitarianism is creeping back unnoticed, which is incredibly dangerous, and Croatia needs to revitalise and maintain with strong resolve the positions it reached in defending the idea of freedom and democracy it fought for in the Homeland War of 1990’s.

This requires a lot of efforts today.

The people of Croatia live in frustration. Victims and culprits became one. The people who have power are those who got rich during the communist Yugoslavia rule and those who got rich during the wild years of privatisation in the 1990s. The corruption and nepotism are still prevalent and the political will of the ruling castes to well and truly rid Croatia of this plague does not exist or is not visible at all. Former agents of the Yugoslav Secret Police (UDBA) are embedded at every level and avenue of society, people representing the former communist power are arrogant and their arrogance stifles progress to painful levels. The loss of Croatian identity is alarming; politicians on the path to preserving and strengthening that identity are mocked, to say the least.

The majority of politicians and people behave as if 1989 [the year marking the fall of communism) never happened. The majority of politicians and people behave as if the European Union had not recently condemned communism as a criminal regime of the past! The “comrades from the party” are attempting to build capitalism with a socialist face: it is the victory of the chosen ones, who operate outside the rules of competition and open tenders. They discard as frivolous the profound and selfless sacrifice for Croatia that Homeland War veterans made.

Judging from public mood expressed via mainstream, non-mainstream and social media, Croatian people are contemplating an essential question: do they want an open full democracy or a closed society, freedom of expression or censorship, rule of law or a new form of authoritarianism. This question cries for articulation, but who will be the brave one to ask it? Certainly, it seems that none of the Presidential candidates currently vying for the high office will ask that question publicly. With Presidential elections due on 22 December this year, it appears most candidates are playing it “safe”; casting their voter-catch net widely. Campaigns are riddled with confusing or unclear messages, with generalised catchphrases promising “something” must change in Croatia (e.g. the slogan of one of strong candidates “Now or Never”) but none are clearly saying what that “something” is and how exactly they aim to change things, even though that “something” gnaws at the bones of most. Given the real danger of illiberal democracy in Croatia and public mood of frustration or impatience for a better future that elections slogan “Now or Never” is a phrase that many Croats attach to the urgent need for lustration/decommunisation and full democratisation. But the bitter scent whiffed by apparent lack of needed “political machinery” and practical mechanisms disappoints deeply. Ina Vukic

 

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