Croatia: Communism Camouflaging as Liberalism and/or Conservatism?

Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic seems increasingly irritated by the fact that the Anti-corruption Parliamentary Council, intended for monitoring progress of fight against corruption, is largely comprised of parliamentary opposition members who have wowed to investigate further the biggest heist, theft, of the century associated with the national INA petroleum company. In the past several days he has threatened to come down against anyone trying to bring down his government, even those seeking the truths about national affairs affecting all citizens, with all repressive measures available to him and accused the opposition in the past week, without any proof or evidence, of being puppets of some external forces that are trying to topple his democratically elected government! His loudest partner in attacking the opposition is the repulsive, allegedly perpetually corrupt Branko Bacic, former communist operative, current President of HDZ Party parliamentary club whose time in government and parliament would have ceased a long time ago were it not for corrupt elections and corrupt-like pressures that had surely swayed many voters in his electorate to vote for him. Both Plenkovic and Bacic in their public outbursts fail to appreciate, most likely purposefully, that toppling an inefficient or allegedly inefficient government, particularly the one whose ministers have been brought down from their position due to corruption or associations with it, is the most holy duty a democracy has!

It is certainly deeply vexing that a government would invest so much energy in attacking members of its parliamentary Anti-corruption Council and those invited to give testimony etc. Andrej Plenkovic’s government has been doing just that and one must ask why.

The right thing to do in anyone’s books, except in those of the corrupt, is that matters of corruption should be freely examined by anyone who wishes to do so without fear of insults or reprisals. Evidently, not in Croatia!

The Parliamentary Anti-Corruption Council is convening a new round of public hearings “in order to shed light on the management issues of the trading company INA”. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, former Economy Minister Tomislav Coric, recently dismissed Croatian members of the INA board Niko Dalic, Barbara Doric and Darko Markotic, and their predecessors Ivan Kresic and Davor Mayer have been invited to give evidence at the hearings. The goal of the new round of hearings is to “improve management and prevent corruption in companies and legal entities owned by the Republic of Croatia, especially those that are of special importance to the Republic of Croatia.”

It will be interesting to see if any of these invitees appear at the hearings. It would seem that governing HDZ party’s labelling the Council via Branko Bacic illegal may be another way of making the fight against corruption even more difficult or simply a symptom of underlying fear of the truth?

The Anti-corruption Council is the only working body of the Croatian Parliament in which the majority members are from the opposition, and it is indicative of deep corruption and/or dishonesty that attempts are made to ban public hearings only when Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic is called to answer before parliament about one of the biggest corruption scandals in the country’s history (INA affair). Referring to illegality of the Council is wrong, and Branko Bacic is acting abominably and deceitfully if for nothing else then because the Rules of Parliamentary Procedure are not a law of the country, but a parliament by-law, and therefore, there should be no question of the illegality of the work of that working body by anyone.

In a country riddled with corruption, such as Croatia, the obstruction of the work of the Anti-corruption Council is a horrific blow to democracy and it shows well that the Government’s fight against corruption is more about stopping the full truth and the processing of such crimes than about healing Croatia from that crippling disease Croatia was infected with during its life within communist Yugoslavia. Obstruction and cover-up of the Government’s and HDZ’s responsibility in the INA affair has, in effect, been the current and past anti-corruption strategy of all ruling political parties since year 2000 – and that in essence is communism as Croatia knew it under the totalitarian regime of Yugoslavia.

Lo and behold, on 13 October Plenkovic said he would not attend the Anti-corruption Council’s hearings as invited. Journalists asked him why he would not respond to the Anti-Corruption Council received the following reply from him: “To whom? Who should I respond. You have a team there that is inviting a guy who is accused of mega-scale corruption. What are we going to learn about his skills there, how to throw a cell phone in a river, carry huge sums of money in bags? What are we talking about? You also must look at it realistically what is the credibility of these people. On the other hand, you have MOST (Coalition of Independent Parties), who, since I kicked them out of the government, have a fixed idea of ​​overthrowing the government, that is their main sport. I don’t care who they will call and who will respond to them. I will not respond.”

My question to the Prime Minister of Croatia would be: What kind of a person, what kind of a Prime Minister characterises a citizen accused of a crime as a criminal before that citizen is found guilty by the courts!? In a true democracy the answer is clear!

Independent Member of Croatian Parliament Karolina Vidovic Kristo has October  13, 2022, emphasised the following in her speech in parliament: “Plenkovic and leading politicians in Croatia, starting with self-proclaimed analysts, insult anyone who asks for informed and evidence-based explanations or presents facts… Public opinion agencies have found that about 70% of citizens believe that Croatia is going in the wrong direction… Examples are the case of INA in which the facts are indisputable because Andrej Plenkovic’s and his government’s corruption in the case of the Sisak refinery has been proven, and treason has also been proven…Croatian citizens feel the dysfunctionality of all important state segments…In 2022 the current German Chancellor Olaf Scholz properly responds to the invitation of the investigative committee of the Hamburg city senate, the federal level outside his formal responsibility, regarding the so-called CumEx affair. This is exactly an example of a functional rule of law and European values. Croatian Prime Minister Plenkovic does not come to the Croatian Parliament to answer for his actions, he does not respect the laws, he does not respect Croatian citizens, he does not respect the Croatian state. He keeps Croatia in lawlessness and the Balkan mire. But know, you arrogant powerful people, the time of reckoning is coming very soon, and we will organise Croatia as a fair and just country.

I have written several articles in the past several years on the issue of lack of government will and skill to rid Croatia of corruption and nepotism even though a few high-level personalities have been found guilty of corruption while others remain in courts after more than a decade of indictments being served upon them. Even in these cases one has always been left cheated, as if something was missing, someone being protected. Justice has certainly not been seen as having been done and for justice to be seen to have been done is a very important ingredient of true democracy and well-functioning state. Whatever the government’s reasons to trash the Anti-corruption Council composition and its work at this time when INA grand theft of public money affair weighs heavily upon the Croatian people and their future no reasonable person could agree with such government behaviour. One would think that the government that boasts of its efforts to fight corruption would never try and stop or stifle anyone trying to do the same! After all, the more people included or involved, the better the chance of capturing most corrupt activities!

To transition fully from communist Yugoslavia and its legacy of corruption, to cleanse a country of communism after five decades of communist totalitarian rule is only achievable with a strong, dedicated, unwavering national strategic plan, which no government in Croatia in past three decades, SDP/Social Democratic Party or HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union, has maintained or fully enforced. That was the first task of the democratic government after the Homeland War had ended and all Croatia’s territory returned to it from Serb occupation. No doubt, too many “skeletons” in the cupboard.

I guess Croatia is just one country in the modern world purporting to nurture pure democracy but if one digs under the surface, voila – pure communism wrapped up in liberalism or conservatism, depending on which political party holds the government.  The biggest lie in modern politics is that there is a genuine spectrum of political thought tolerated under a liberal democracy including its conservative variant.

While Croatian government and even leading opposition political parties such as SDP may portray themselves as subscribing to liberalism and the so-called progressive lot, and HDZ may often see itself wrapped up in liberalised conservatism, the reality is that in Croatia all these political ideologies and platforms are a pure camouflage for communism and its heritage. All governments in Croatia since year 2000 have been inflexible, oppressive, repressive in that they belittle and insult all views and opinions and efforts that are attempted in the name of democracy and against those in authority and power. There is, thanks be to the Lord, much opposition to this political charade that is impoverishing people’s lives and pushing multitudes to leave Croatia and seek a decent livelihood elsewhere.

The reality in Croatia is that every political idea that is presented to the public must not in any way criticise the government or suggest that it is not doing a good job, or it will be smothered and stifled and insulted by those in government authorities. It will be lost and pushed behind the life scenes to be forgotten.

It is through a kind of political kabuki theatre that the tropes are perpetuated for three decades now in Croatia, thus keeping the totalitarian communist Yugoslavia regime on life-supports!

The camouflaged communism in Croatia is seeing the increasing intrusion of authoritarian powers in democratic public discourse and one must pray it will crumble from within if not from external forces in Croatia. Not only does the Croatian Prime Minister and his government use authoritarian powers to pursue the government’s agenda, but they insist conceitedly he and his political partners are superior human beings who know best.

This translates into the frame of a democracy within which HDZ considers itself supreme, better, and more skilful at leading the country than any other political party or movement. With the control of mainstream media this is easy to install into the society but then again it is easy to see that such pursuits are far removed from democracy. In reality,  they are, communism camouflaged as liberalism and/or conservatism.   

When it comes to futile struggles in Croatia for the weaving into its Constitution, laws, and life the values of the 1990’s Homeland War, one cannot but confirm the correctness of widespread perceptions that Croatia is ruled by the former communist Yugoslavia mindset and immediate families of its operatives. The well-known slogan ‘Dare to fight, dare to win’ that originated from communist Mao Tse Tung seems to be and to have been the unspoken slogan adhered to by Croatia’s former communist operatives or their children or grandchildren holding any position of power or authority. It is because of this that Croats have come to know that victory against Serb and Yugoslav aggression in the 1990’s war of independence from communist Yugoslavia only prepared for repetition of what was hateful to the people, restoration of communist Yugoslavia values. But hopefully all that will change through general elections in the near future as the multitudes who have stayed away from casting their votes because of disappointment in politicians head to the polls. Ina Vukic

Croatia: No Time For Passive Patriotism

“We are fed up with affairs of theft and corruption, we are fed up with the communist government, we are fed up with networked cells and everything. Everyone!” – chanted protesters against the Croatian HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) government on Saturday 10 September 2022, outside the Party headquarters in Zagreb.

The grand theft of about US$107 million from the country’s major oil and gas company “INA” recently uncovered, and dubbed the heist of the century, was without a doubt the trigger for this protest that openly flagged its intention to sack the government. On a visibly large scale in Croatia (as well as in its diaspora, which is economically very important to Croatia) people are sick and tired of the corruption and scandals occurring in the country against which the governments since 2000 have not in earnest waged any real attack – particularly at the grassroots where it counts the most and where real changes to the culture of corruption commence and solidify for the whole nation. This latest eruption of scandalous theft seemed the last straw of tolerance towards the government to quite a few people even if the Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic had swiftly and ceremoniously, a couple of days before the protest, announced that the funds stolen from INA had been found and secured and that “the money will not be running away anywhere”.  But still, a significant proportion of the Croatian population does not trust Plenkovic or his political party nor do they trust SDP (Socialist Democratic Party) that was also in government from time to time since year 2000.

Zagreb, September 10, 2022, anti-government protest outside the HDZ ruling party headquarters/ Photo: Pixsell/Matija Habljak

What is more alarming in Prime Minister Plenkovic’s reaction to Saturday’s protest, after a 17-year old lad had been arrested for possession of two Molotov Cocktails and an improvised knife, is that he said that in Croatia there are “people who are ready to use force to overthrow the democratically elected government, and that there are people who are organised, arming themselves and trying to change the government by force.” He and his political party have stood behind this blatant threat to freedom of expression and democracy, dressed up as some deserving comment for the good of all. How would the public know that the 17-year-old Molotov-Cocktail-carrying youth was not planted there by the government!? It’s not as if the public can trust the rotten and corrupt police services (led by former communist operatives) to get to the truth of it, especially if that truth points to the government or its associates. But, if it was true that extremist, violent groups exist in Croatia and are organised with intent of toppling the government, even by force, why has there been no such item of the nation’s security program, said members of the parliamentary opposition a few days after the protest!?

 Well, of course there are people everywhere expressing publicly their dissatisfaction with their government, their democracy, and tax-paying, guarantees them that right and obligation. Just look at the human history of mass anti-government protests. One does not try to intimidate all protesters just because one or two are found to have had “weapons”, which could have been planted there for political gain or intimidate the public against future protests of the same goal. One does not cast aspersions of violence or violent intents against a group of concerned citizens demonstrators just because one or two acted badly, independently. But to HDZ it seems that “the son is responsible for the sins of the father”. How tragic for a democracy.

Many, including myself, wish that there were more people that joined the peaceful protest on 10 September, all of them surely have no objection to police dealing with individuals who bring along weapons that could injure or kill people.

The painful truth that must be eradicated in Croatia is that the fight against corruption has been a lot like a cosmetic job whereby only a handful of large lumps of sums stolen from public coffers into private ones of politicians and highly positioned directors of public companies had been pursued for correction and convictions. Overall, court cases for this corruption and theft tend to drag on for a decade or more and somehow most of the money stolen remains mysteriously unaccounted for to the public. Plenkovic as Prime Minister has done absolutely nothing to change this media spinning profile of “corruption fighting” to include fighting corruption at all levels of public administration and services, from the lowest to the highest. 

From living as part of communist Yugoslavia for half a century Croatia inherited a profoundly infectious and destructive disease known as corruption that is heavily laden with nepotism, embezzlement, and theft. Abominably, odious corrupt habits for personal gain at every level of public administration have defined Croatia as a “economic basket case”, heavily reliant on EU handouts for survival. Corruption and nepotism are the number one problem and yet independent audits, and financial controls are largely missing or scandalously ineffective and national standards of service delivery under any legislation are inexistent and certainly not in circulation for purposes of rule of law, checks and balances. The life of ordinary people plunging into increasing poverty as the country’s economy plummets into an abyss of failed companies, thieved companies, failed farmers and fisheries particularly due to EU imposed quotas… the definite feel one gets from it all is that bribes are rampant at every public service counter, at every public service job opening at every appointment with a medical specialist in public health, at every enrolment in public schools of praiseworthy repute…    

10.09.2022., Zagreb, Croatia – anti-government protest “We dismiss you” / Photo: Matija Habljak/PIXSELL

While there are quite a few people who believe that nothing can be done to rid Croatia of corruption, that it is too deeply rooted into the public administration machinery and culture. Many people who have grown accustomed to perks from a corrupt government that dishes out rewards to those who don’t stir the pot, as it were, tolerate corruption just as many did during the era of communist Yugoslavia. Thankfully, there are also many who feel a strong sense of fidelity to Croatia’s democracy as intended by the War of Independence or Homeland War of the 1990’s. It is to the latter that this predicament of widespread corruption presents greater challenges with intent to eradicate corruption than what it does for those who are willing to abandon or be complacent towards meaningful fight against corruption and are supporting (or tolerating) the governments whose main impetus since 2000 has been to act in concert with the Serb aggressor and its cells in Croatia with view to equate the victim with the aggressor.

Modern Croatia’s founding values are without a doubt those that were set in motion with the overwhelming national determination to secede from communist Yugoslavia and it is almost past the time of reckoning with the extent of damage perpetrated against the Croatian national story by any political party or government since year 2000, strongly laced with communist roots and operations from former Yugoslavia. Hence, protests such as the one that occurred in Zagreb on Saturday 10 September may indeed be a sign of strength in the people rather than a whim of few individuals, would be leaders or politicians. The disabling factor, though, is that there are too many individuals in Croatia who tend to their own handful of followers, form a political party or movement, and claim they, and only they, can “change the world”. A leader must be identified and supported for any joint political force in Croatia that would indeed be successful in “sacking” or dismissing any government that harbours communist Yugoslavia values and morals, that places the aggressor above those who defended the country from that aggressor.

It is a fact that every nation is a unique story upon which its survival depends.

That fact remains regardless of the globalist and leftist push to muddy those individual national stories and blend all into an amorphous mass of subservient people across the globe to a powerful few.

A national story is almost never a simple one. National identity itself, and therefore – prosperity, invariably depend upon how we tell the story of our nation – about our past, our present moment, and our future. Croatian story in essence is the one that tells us that Croatia started as rightful Kingdom of its own in early 10th century, continued independent until 1102 AD to be forced into becoming a subservient nation to various occupying and imperialistic foreign kingdoms, empires, or republics to be finally freed in 1995 because of the victorious Homeland War, defending itself from brutal Serb and Yugoslav forces of aggression. The latter, therefore, is what in its story the Croatian nation must accentuate for the sake of its own survival and prosperity, regardless of the fact it is now an EU member state. Neither the HDZ nor the SDP have shown the capacity to tell the story of the Croatian nation. They both missed or downplayed intentionally the crucial significance of the 1990’s Homeland War for the nation’s story. They insisted and still insist on inflicting pain upon the Croatian nation by collaborating in government not with the Serb minority that fought in the war to defend Croatia from Serb aggression but with the Serb minority directly associated with the anti-Croatia aggression, murders, destruction!

Many national stories are rooted in a particular ethnicity or religion that forms the core of that national identity. In Croatia, as in some other countries around the world, things are more complicated. Since the founding of modern and independent Croatia that sought secession from communist Yugoslavia, Croatia’s national identity has been the story that is constantly poisoned by former communists and their descendants. Be that from the writing of Croatia’s Constitution by former communist operatives just before the Serb and Yugoslav aggression started, to the failure in changing promptly that Constitution once the victory over the aggressor was achieved. At that point in time all references to any communist Yugoslavia “achievements” for independence of Croatia should have been removed from the constitution because communists/partisans in World War Two fought to keep Croatia within Yugoslavia, not to free it from it. But such changes to the Constitution were not made!

There lies the greatest culprit for the boldness of former communists and their descendants for the licence they have written for themselves to underplay the victory in the War of Independence or Homeland War as the centre of the Croatian national story.

The door opened to democracy in Croatia by the Homeland War victory is worth saving indeed. If not via elections (which are reputed to be corrupt) then on the streets with more and more peaceful protests. No government had ever welcomed a protest against it, and it rings so true that if a government told and lived their nation’s story then there would be no protests against it in the sense of bringing it down completely.

Croatian people need to save the soul of Croatia. The soul that achieved its independence in the 1990’s. That was the last time Croatia had a real sense of purpose and that sense was felt nationwide.

To achieve such a national sense of purpose the success will require political leadership and the mobilisation of citizens and various sectors of Croatian society—including cultural, media, and business institutions that have often been reticent to engage in debates that drift in the direction of politics. The wielding of political leadership and power achieved via dismal voter turnouts is no real national leadership.

10/09/2022 Zagreb Croatia – Anti Government protest (You have stolen our future, we dismiss you)/ Photo: Cropix/ Dragan Matic

This is no time for passive patriotism!

Croatian democracy will not survive if Croatians lazily assume that enough people will just come to their senses and recognise that it must be saved—that there is something fixed in the national character that ensures people will live decently and have all opportunities for advancement a democracy offers. There’s nothing inevitable at all about the verdict of history because the history depends on the people creating it. The reliance upon government coffers and corrupt practices has given many families in former Yugoslavia an acceptable standard of living – that was simply the political way communism sought to survive; this though cannot last but Croatia is significantly impoverished through corruption and poverty is on the increase. Croatians must fight for their national story to be weaved into their legislation, into their everyday lives and it is becoming very clear that organised massive and peaceful protests in the streets are becoming the only tool available to the promise of success in living the national story for which rivers of Croatian blood were spilled in the 1990’s.  The transition from communism to democracy demands people power. It is everyone’s responsibility and duty to ensure Croatia becomes free of communist Yugoslavia completely. Ina Vukic

Croatia: Poor Levels of Democratisation Continue as Corruption Prevails

Over the past thirty years, Croatia has witnessed democratic transitions take root across all levels of government and society. That was, after all, the choice its people had overwhelmingly made from 1990. Millions of oppressed people in Croatia, who voted in 1991 (94% of voters) to secede from and sever all ties with the totalitarian regime of communist Yugoslavia, are still struggling to realise true freedom and shared opportunity due to deep rooted corruption in governments. The transition from communism to democracy has since year 2000, after President Dr Franjo Tudjman’s death, been teetering on the edge of truly meaningful transition to more free society because former communist high operatives in Yugoslavia took hold of the government and power in their main stations.

Democratic gains made up to year 2000 stalled after that year or even deteriorated as fragile democratic institutions buckled under the enormous challenges of governance that was and is still nurturing corruption and nepotism and equal opportunities and competition on merit rather than political suitability remained the enemy of true progress with democracy.

It is usual to keep asking the question of how far along has Croatia come in developing its democracy after all these years? How does one measure the degree and even the type of democracy Croatia was desirous of developing and for which it spilled rivers of its own blood during the Homeland War of 1990’s?

Despite a vast academic literature on democratisation in the past twenty years in particular, the factors that allow some democratic transitions to succeed as others stall or backslide remain poorly understood by policymakers and, indeed, much of the public or consumers of democracy. And particularly so in Croatia which sees incompetent, often with strong traces of communist indoctrination, people employed in government institutions through family or friendship ties (nepotism) regardless of their abilities to perform the job they are employed to do. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the relative importance of economic development and modernisation, economic structure, inequality, governance and rule of law, civil society and media, structure of government, and education have been exhaustively debated throughout the world and so too in Croatia.

Several civil society and academic organisations have launched projects that measure the health of democracies across the world. Components of measuring democracy and according to three indexes, among many, are as follows:
Freedom House Index:
• Elections • Participation • Functioning of Government • Free Expression
• Organisational Right • Rule of Law • Individual Rights
Economist Intelligence Unit Index: • Elections • Participation • Functioning of Government • Political Culture • Civil Liberties
V-Dem Index: • Elections • Participation • Deliberation • Egalitarianism
• Liberalism (individual rights)

While one would struggle to find a body or institution, or even professional research, in Croatia whose main aim is to provide measures and progress and state of democracy in Croatia it is perhaps most useful to examine the two basic indicators of democratisation that can be used separately to measure the level of democracy, but, because they are assumed to indicate two different dimensions of democratisation, it is reasonable to argue that a combination of them would be a more realistic indicator of democracy than either of them alone. These are Participation and Competition. Participation is as important dimension of democracy as competition. If only a small minority, or barely half of the adult population eligible to vote takes part in elections, the electoral struggle for power is restricted to the upper stratum of the population, and the bulk of the population remains outside national politics and influence for change. In Croatia there has been both dwindling and gradual decline of turnout at elections since year 2000, Parliamentary or National Assembly/Sabor and Presidential elections have followed a similar trajectory of participation reduction.

In the first multi-party elections in 1990, at the dawn of wanting secession from communist Yugoslavia, three parliamentary chambers were elected in a two-round majoritarian system: the Social-Political Council, the Council of Municipalities and the Council of Associated Labour. Turnout for the election each chamber varied. It was as follows: Social-Political council (84.5% in first round in all constituencies, 74.82% in second round in 51 of 80 constituencies), Council of Municipalities, which was abolished in 2001, (84.1% in first round, 74.6% in second round) and Council of Associated Labour (76.5% in first round in all constituencies, 66% in second round in 103 of 160 constituencies).

In 1991 the referendum for secession from Yugoslavia, the Croatian Independence Referendum, saw a staggering 93.24% electoral turnout and participation.
In 1992 General Elections for Parliament or National Assembly saw an admirable 75.6% turnout,
1995 elections saw 68.8% turnout,
2000 elections saw 70.5% turnout,
2003 saw 61.7% turnout,
2007 elections saw 59.5%,
2011 elections saw 54.3% turnout,
2015 elections saw 60.8% turnout,
2016 elections saw 52.6% turnout,
2020 elections saw 46.4% turnout.

Similar pattern of dwindling and reducing participation was seen at Presidential elections in Croatia and referendums during the same decades.

One may say that reducing voter turnout is a pattern seen in many democracies across the world. For Croatia, though, a country that was so highly determined to exit the communist regime voter turnouts were expected to remain high for several decades as transition into full democracy continues. But former communists made sure such a transition was not to be smooth or thorough! Sadly! The exceptional will to fight for a fully democratic Croatia we witnessed in the 1990’s Homeland War in Croatia appears weakened and intimidated, just as it used to be during the life of communist Yugoslavia that saw progress into freedom and autonomy cruelly crushed. Today, the crushing is done in sophisticated and stealth ways.

Power sharing is then certainly more superficial in societies where voter turnout at elections that are competitive with multiple parties running is low and significant proportion of voters do not participate in deciding who and how the new governments will move forward than in societies where most of the adult population takes part in elections. Both dimensions, participation and competition, are equally important and necessary for democratisation. Political competition in Croatia has been strong with almost too many political parties and independents competing. It is often heard that comparing to its voting population (around 3.6 million) the existence of some 170 political parties, many of which compete at general elections, is a nightmare of its own. It suggests wide distrust in existing political parties and political leaders as well as the hopeless notion that just about anyone can be a politician and successfully lead the country. But does such a relatively high level of competition compensate for the relative lack of participation in the democratic processes in Croatia is a question the answer to which is obviously no. Just as a high level of participation cannot compensate for a low level of competition. While closely associated with the level of democratisation each of these two dimensions contain factors and facets that are equally important if democracy will thrive.

The level of democratisation is considered high if both participation and competition variables are high. While competition is high in Croatia its value for democratisation is low because elections have since year 2000 become not free elections but rather marred by justified distrust in the electoral commission, in vote counts and corrupt practices. Hence, competition at elections in Croatia means very little as the overt healthy competition does not end up with healthy or trusted true results of voter choice. Votes stolen or falsified, or suspected of being stolen and fabricated, is a scandal that had blanketed all general elections in Croatia since year 2000.

Gradually, over the past two decades in Croatia voter distrust has become the main culprit for relatively low participation. The justified fear of unwanted communist mindset and practices having crept into Croatia’s power corridors has influenced significant disappointment and distrust in the electoral procedures and democracy itself, which led to significant voter abstinence during elections. One often hears in Croatia ‘what’s the use of voting when the election results have been determined or fixed in advance’! In more than two decades Croatian authorities have failed miserably in building people’s trust in the electoral system and have in this way also contributed to a relatively poor level of democratisation. Croatia has failed miserably at providing for proper and due access to polling stations for all its voters and voters living abroad, which are many due to massive emigration, suffer the gravest discrimination and denial of voting right through lack of reasonable access to polling.

Measuring democratisation of Croatia has not, as I said, been pursued in Croatia with any vigour, regularity, credibility, or reliability. Perhaps that is because the government is not in the business of either measuring its democracy itself or funding NGO’s or institutions to do the measuring of progress. Perhaps also because of fear of reprisals from the government in case any such measure inevitably means criticism of the government. It is not unusual in Croatia to see government critics and opponents being ostracised, ignored, or blackened purposefully. But thankfully external organisations across the world who monitor democracy and democratisation have produced ample reports and studies on the state of democracy in Croatia and while some may be biased on political grounds many provide solid guiding information. For example, in 2020 Freedom House has in its ‘Nations In Transit’ report among other things said the following about democracy in Croatia:

“The year 2020 saw no real improvement in Croatia’s democracy… In 2020, the Croatian judiciary convicted former prime minister and HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) leader Ivo Sanader, as well as the HDZ itself, on corruption and money-laundering charges. These convictions came more than 10 years after the crimes were committed and may yet be appealed. Sanader and the HDZ had previously been convicted in 2014, but those sentences were later overturned.

The year was marked by notable cases of grand corruption, including a major pre-election scandal involving the high-ranking HDZ official and former Knin mayor Josipa Rimac. Alongside a dozen other important political figures, Rimac stood accused of favouritism in assigning a lucrative wind farm contract. An illegal private club in Zagreb frequented during the COVID-19 lockdown by politicians (including the president) was run by Dragan Kovacevic, former CEO of the state-owned oil transport company JANAF. Under his leadership, JANAF mismanaged public procurements, and Kovacevic was found to have personally accepted large bribes. These and other instances demonstrated a pattern: unless scandals come to the surface through journalistic investigations or other means, Croatian institutions do not wholeheartedly pursue inquiries into grand corruption…

The relatively large electoral competition in Croatia has seen during the past five years increased electoral campaign-finance laws passed that have increased transparency but, also, have failed to close several loopholes. Political influence over the media is strong, with reporters who criticise the government subject to dismissal, and defamation suits often used to intimidate or harass journalists. Media pluralism is quite limited. Hence, high competition hides low competition as access to mainstream media by all competitors is selective and discriminatory.

Regulations are sometimes inconsistent and subject to frequent change. Courts lack independence, and a significant case backlog persists. High-profile politicians and public figures have been indicted, but many prominent individuals have been acquitted after interference by powerful interests.”

The state of democratisation in Croatia has not changed since 2020, which saw the lowest turnout at presidential and general elections in the history of Croatian independence and secession from communist Yugoslavia. Participation, therefore, as a key variable in the level of democracy is dangerously low and with grand corruption (corruption at all levels of society and economy whether by theft, nepotism or bribery) plaguing the country still serious political crises loom. In February of this 2022 year Croatian construction minister Darko Horvat was arrested in a corruption probe and investigations continue into his alleged abuse of power while in office. In March of this year, former Sisak-Moslavina County Prefect Marina Lovric Mercel was sentenced by the Zagreb County Court to seven years in prison for a series of corrupt practices while running one of Croatia’s poorest counties.

Until a different path is taken by the country’s leadership, the government first and foremost, it is unlikely that Croatia’s democracy will fundamentally improve. It is likely that the communist mindset will continue ruling; it is likely that corruption and thievery will hold their front of co-dependency within the leadership and power corridors unless, of course, drastic measures are taken by the people that have at their helm a steel determination to rid Croatian power lines of communists and communist Yugoslavia high operative’s children and grandchildren whose mindset and behaviour have been shaped by communism.

It is said that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear! It is impossible to make something very successful or of high quality out of something which is unsuccessful or of poor quality. Yugoslav communists knew ‘sod all’ about democracy and they did not care for true democracy and power sharing; egotistic pursuits were the threads in the fabric of Yugoslav communist pursuits. Since year 2000 Croatian leadership has been saturated with the proverbial sows! People in positions because of their political weight and personal association with those already in power and not because of professional merit. Democratisation in Croatia maintains a cosmetic mask – Croatia’s leaders keep associating themselves and their policies with those of the European Union. But, in fact, the application and practice of those policies are at pathetic level ruled by corrupt practices on the ground. Ina Vukic

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