Croatia: Snappy Dissolution Of Parliament To Snap Elections

 

Croatian Parliament

Croatian Parliament

Croatian politicians have Monday 20 June voted to dissolve the parliament, paving the way for snap elections after bringing down the fragile five-month old government last week through vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic.
The dissolution of parliament “will become effective on July 15“, speaker Zeljko Reiner said on Monday 20 June. 137 members in the 151-seat assembly backed the dissolution move.
The new election, a snap vote, is likely to happen in early September, as it must be held no earlier than 30 days and no later than 60 days after the date when parliament is dissolved. President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who will choose the election date, said she would take account of the fact that most parties were in favour of holding the vote after the summer holidays.

At the same time, the majority coalition party in government, HDZ with Tomislav Karamarko at its head, did not succeed in mustering up enough support (76 seats) to restructure a new government. Hence, Tomislav Karamarko has resigned as party leader, leaving the party leadership slate clean for fresh talent with the most chance of beating by a good margin the centre-left Social Democrats at the polls.

 

Karamarko said his resignation will give his party a better chance in the snap elections “this act creates space for new impulses.”
I am resigning in the interest of the party, not because of pressure,” Karamarko said. “I had promised my party that I will be able to create a political majority and I failed, so I take responsibility for that.”

Last November’s election produced a fragile, minority government that was catapulted into power through coalition with Most/Bridge independents and appointing a non-elected Prime Minister. Had there been more experience in this kind of government perhaps all would have been well but, regretfully, the government became the focus of staged scandals by the opposition, disputes over sensitive political appointments, public administration reforms that would mean big job cuts, and Karamarko’s conflict of interest case. Had all this not ended the way it did, had Karamarko not resigned there would have surely been new scandals to bring the government down. This government was doomed from the start and, I would say, much of the blame could be directed at the ousted Prime Minister who, it seems, lost his way somewhere along the line and forgot that HDZ had a list of reforms that needed to be implemented and because of which it was elected as a relative majority in parliament.

 

The prospects of new election results do not point to a much better or different situation. If an elected majority is not a convincing majority, a minority government would again take power joining into a coalition with minor parties or independents and political instability comparable to the one we have just seen in Croatia could well re-emerge. This of course would produce more lasting negative influences on investments upon which reforms and economic recovery depend.

 

HDZ has a huge job to do in the coming weeks if it wants to win government again and much of this work will be safely in the bag if its new leader is a figure many in and out of current HDZ support can respect. Such a person, in my opinion is Andrej Plenkovic, currently HDZ Member of EU Parliament, who has already declared he’ll put his hand up for candidacy. It needs to be kept in mind that HDZ won a relative majority of seats in parliament with promised reforms that have yet to be tested and implemented and if cards are played right with the people, this, and not the confusion of the political crisis just gone, will be in voters minds when they go to the polls in September.
Voters know that Croatia needs decisive reforms to fix its fragile public finances, reduce public debt, which now stands at 86% of GDP, improve the investment climate and stimulate growth. All of this has now been placed on a backburner as snap elections loom. HDZ would do well to reassure the electorate that the reforms needed, and more, are ready to go despite the unwelcome albeit temporary setback with the political crisis just gone. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatian Government Falls – No Love In Politics

Left: Domagoj Ivan Milosevic, Gen Sec. HDZ Right: Tomislav Karamarko, President HDZ Photo: Marko Prpic/Pixsell

Left: Domagoj Ivan Milosevic, Gen Sec. HDZ
Right: Tomislav Karamarko, President HDZ
Photo: Marko Prpic/Pixsell

 

What gigantic three days of last week in the political life of Croatia.
In the wake of the Commission for conflicts of interests decision that conflict of interest applied to him in the case of INA/MOL and his wife’s business dealings, the leader of the majority party in government, Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ Tomislav Karamarko on Wednesday 15 June resigned as First Deputy Prime Minister; but not without emphasising that HDZ, as relatively major seat holder in parliament, was not giving up its fight to form a new government within the 30 days defined by law after a fall of government and that new elections were the very last option HDZ would look to. Indeed, HDZ has been giving confident reassurances that it has decided upon its candidate for the new Prime Minister (current finance minister Zdravko Maric) and that it will in the ensuing legally defined period of 30 days from the fall of current government succeed in achieving 76-seat majority in the parliament.

 

Tihomir Oreskovic, fallen Prime Minister of Croatia Photo: Marko Lukunic/Pixsell

Tihomir Oreskovic,
fallen Prime Minister of Croatia
Photo: Marko Lukunic/Pixsell

The current coalition government fell on Thursday 16 June after only five months in the throne as the Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic lost a confidence vote in the parliament.

 

Then in a move that evoked sizeable anger and resentment towards her seeming disrespect of rules and bias, president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic wasted no time in hogging the public microphone on Friday 17 June, saying that “nobody I spoke with has (during the consultations she had held with members of parliament since the day before) convinced me they enjoy the needed support of 76 or more representatives to achieve the status of Prime Minister.”

I can confirm that a majority has expressed the opinion about the need for early elections,” she continued, adding that it was impossible to shorten the period of 30 days guaranteed by the Constitution and appealed to the president of the parliament Zeljko Reiner to bring the matter of dissolution of the parliament to its agenda as soon as possible! Reportedly most representatives she spoke to expressed the opinion that new elections should be held in early September, however, as per previous practice, one would expect that she would hold more than just one consultation within this important realm that gives her the responsibility to ensure Croatia has a government in place.

 

This is what’s on Croatia’s political plate at this moment:

parliamentary relative majority party HDZ seeks to utilise its constitutional right of 30 days to form a new coalition government rather than go to snap elections;
the country’s president appeals for the parliament to table the decision on its own dissolution prior to the expiry of those 30 days in order to make way for snap elections;
HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko has announced his appeal against the conflict of interest findings to the Administrative tribunal.

 

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic President of Croatia Photo: Marko Prpic/Pixsell

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
President of Croatia
Photo: Marko Prpic/Pixsell

 

 

As one might expect, this president’s move is fanning ongoing speculations and political postulations as to whether and why in fact the parliament should be dissolved on the day when 30 days expire (15 July 2016). The president’s move appears to be feeding a good deal of members of parliament to keep driving loud opinions that HDZ should bow out of its right to 30 days to form a new government and simply join the rest in speeding up the dissolution. This, of course, is causing a good deal of distressing confusion in public as well as to a politically staged diversion from HDZ’s inherent rights to try and quell ruffled-up spirits and save the government without the need for new elections. The political platform is rife with a push for snap elections, which also reveals many a new political ambition for all-important thrones including the one of the Prime Minister. Even Zagreb’s mayor Milan Bandic, who has till “yesterday” supported Karamarko, has reveled his newfound (?) ambition to put forth his name as candidate for Prime Minister at snap elections, for which he is suddenly raising his other hand. Bandic comments on his stand with the worn-down cliché “…there’s no love (meaning lasting devotion) in politics.” (HRT TV news 18 June 2016)

 

As to the findings of conflict of interest against Tomislav Karamarko, leader of HDZ, these do not seem to have shaken HDZ’s resolve to keep him at the party’s helm for the time being, except with a number of members including Tomislav Tolusic, regional development and EU funds minister, and a political cadaver Vladimir Seks, who I think should have retired from HDZ a long, long time ago. A prominent founding HDZ member and former minister of science and technology dr Ivica Kostovic said for HRT TV news Saturday 18 June that his “experience since he had entered into the government was that he met perhaps 1% of people who were not in a conflict of interest”. (HRT TV news 18 June 2016)

Zeljko Reiner President of Croatian Parliament In response to president's statement Says that HDZ may succeed in forming new government and that new elections may not be needed

Zeljko Reiner
President of Croatian Parliament
In response to president’s statement
Says that HDZ may succeed
in forming new government
and that new elections may not be needed

Indeed, being in conflict of interest seems to have been a dark legacy left from public office administration of former Yugoslavia. That, of course, does not excuse any continuance of operating with conflict of interest – it simply highlights the need to deal with it properly as cases arise and that seems to have been the spirit of Dr Kostovic’s comment.

 

 

Karamarko has wowed that he will take the Commission’s decision to the Administrative tribunal, as he believes he was not in conflict of interest as found by it. It would seem that the Commission had weighed against Karamarko a reported detail that he did not declare his wife’s business dealings with the Hungarian MOL at a reported government meeting, from which there are apparently no detailed minutes, when matter of arbitration regarding INA/MOL issue (i.e. taking back Croatian ownership prevalence in the company of national importance – INA) was discussed. But, reportedly he also did not participate in any decision-making at the said meeting, either. The latter then would raise some alarms regarding the credibility of the Commission’s decision itself. The Commission, as evidencing conflict of interest, reportedly also took into account Karamarko’s personal Facebook status, which said that he was personally committed to Croatia pulling out of arbitration with MOL!

 

Karamarko commented that his personal opinions are well known to the public but that he has never imposed them upon third persons. “I have never had a single meeting on the Government premises with the arbitration on the agenda … It’s possible that I have had meetings outside the Government with Josip Petrovic (MOL’s consultant) but INA and MOL have never been the topic of those meetings.”

Dalija Oreskovic Photo: Dalibor Urukalovic/Pixsell

Dalija Oreskovic
Photo: Dalibor Urukalovic/Pixsell

 

The Commission’s head, Dalija Oreskovic, commented that “Karamarko cannot separate his private opinions from himself as a public figure and that, in that sense, he fell into conflict of interest.” She added “he used his political influence in connection to his opinion about arbitration, so that the potential or possible conflict of interest in these personal opinions and public intercessions point to the finding that the official found himself in a situation where conflict of interest was realised…”

In defending himself against the motion of no confidence last Wednesday, Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic told the parliament that the real reason for his ouster was that he started resolving the dispute between INA and MOL, adding that someone was not pleased with it (evidently alluding to Karamarko). It will be interesting to see what the Administrative tribunal will decide regarding private vs public lives (opinions) of a public official. At this stage HDZ wants to reshuffle the government with a new prime minister (Zdravko Maric), with Karamarko remaining as the party leader and digging its heels in at this may work, but it also may not. Next week or so will show whether the worn-down cliché “there’s no love in politics” is actually a double-edged sword that can either damage or benefit HDZ’s efforts to survive in parliament without snap elections. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Bleiburg – Commemorating Croatian Victims Of Communist Crimes

Tomislav Karamarko, First Deputy Prime Minister Shakes hand with one of the clerical officials leading the mass at Bleiburg field Saturday 14 May 2016 Photo: Sanjin Strukic/Pxsell

Tomislav Karamarko, First Deputy Prime Minister
Shakes hand with one of the
clerical officials leading the mass
at Bleiburg field Saturday 14 May 2016
Photo: Sanjin Strukic/Pxsell

The 71st annual commemoration of Croatian victims of communism (Yugoslav) at the Bleiburg field, Austria, and along the Way of the Cross from mid-May 1945 to months after, took place under the renewed auspices of the Croatian Parliament at Bleiburg field on Saturday 14 May 2016. The Eucharist led by Bishop Franjo Komarica (From Banja Luka/ Bosnia and Herzegovina) embraced the compassionate and grieving hearts of more than 20,000 Croats and their guests.
The Bleiburg field and death marches (Way of the Cross) symbolise the tragedy of the Croatian people that occurred after WWII had ended. The totalitarian communist regime of Yugoslavia then committed acts of horrendous violence on massive scales, violating basic human rights, including the most valuable human right – the right to life. All this, in the name of sick revenge and political agenda, which would see the undisturbed installation of communism as the only way of political thought and deed for decades to come.

Croatian government and parliamentary leaders at Bleiburg 14 May 2016 Photo: Sanjin Strukic/Pixsell

Croatian government and parliamentary
leaders at Bleiburg 14 May 2016
Photo: Sanjin Strukic/Pixsell

Zeljko Reiner, the President of the Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko (who also led a delegation on the same day to lay wreaths at the Tezno pit – mass grave filled with more than 15,000 victims of communist crimes), several ministers and MPs gathered there to personally bow their heads to the victims. Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, and Deputy Prime Minister Bozo Petrov were not there with the masses on Saturday (although President Graba-Kitarovic did send a representative Bruna Esih), they each decided to avoid coming on that day but did get to Bleiburg privately or on the quiet the day or so before.

 

 

This seems to be some sort of a new fashion or a fad in Croatia from the office of the President and Prime Minister: not joining the official commemoration, not joining the people for the occasion – just going separately under the explanation that they do not want to bring politics into commemorating! Similar thing occurred for the commemorations of the Holocaust in Jasenovac in April, at least as far as the President is concerned.

Bleiburg 2016 Photo: Sanjin Strukic/Pixsell

Bleiburg 2016
Photo: Sanjin Strukic/Pixsell

 

Well, while politics should not interfere with commemorations for victims of these brutal crimes it does strike one that the very noticeable President’s and Prime Minister’s absence actually makes that choice of theirs very political. The President’s eye-poking purposeful absence from the official memorial ceremonies does colour commemorating the victims political no matter what the President or Prime Minister say. By not attending the official ceremonies, to my view, both the President and the Prime Minister have given their nod of approval to the Social Democrats/ the left parliamentary opposition for their absence from the official commemorations! So, the President’s and the Prime Minister’s calling for unity does not sit comfortably when in fact they practice separatism in this very important historic event for the Croatian nation.

Bleiburg memorial site for Croatian victims of communist crimes

Bleiburg memorial site for
Croatian victims of communist crimes

A major problem in modern historiography is that when describing the ‘struggle for historical remembrance,’ not all victims enjoy the same privilege of commemoration. Judging by the modern media body counts, someone’s World War II dead must have priority, while someone else’s dead are meant to slide into oblivion. In Croatian historical awareness the word ‘Bleiburg’ has a special meaning, just like the word ‘Viktring’ has a specific meaning for the Slovenes and for the inhabitants of Austria’s Carinthia. Indeed, in the Croatian language the word ‘Bleiburg,’ does not evoke the images of pristine woods, skiing holidays, or a new shopping center. For many Croats this word has become a metaphysical locution designating a horrific example of catastrophically failed nation-state building. Bleiburg is not a symbol of a picturesque and romantic location, but a road sign of Croatia’s sociobiological catastrophe. By the late May 1945, hundreds of thousands of fleeing Croats … were extradited from there to Tito’s Yugoslav partisans—courtesy of the Allied English troops in the vicinity,” wrote recently dr Tom Sunic in his review of Florian Thomas Rulitz’s book “The Tragedy of Bleiburg and Viktring, 1945.

 

Bleiburg commemoration 2016 Photo: Sanjin Strukic/Pixsell

Bleiburg commemoration 2016
Photo: Sanjin Strukic/Pixsell

During communist Yugoslavia, the commemorations at both Bleiburg and Jasenovac were illustrative of how Josip Broz Tito’s communist dictatorship monopolised the historical narrative through public rituals. Under Tito’s – communists’ directives – the commemoration at Jasenovac (symbol of the Holocaust) served to uplift in people’s eyes and legitimate the ruling communist party, and any questioning of the official narrative or figures was strictly forbidden. Numbers of victims at Jasenovac were blown out of reality and floundered falsely, without questioning, into hundreds of thousands just because psychologically the greater the number the more horrible the crime in people’s minds. Bleiburg, on the other hand, was a taboo topic, banned and systematically erased from the cultural and historical memory in Yugoslavia, but was kept alive in the Croatian diaspora community and its press.

In contrast to the state-sponsored rituals at Jasenovac, individuals paying homage to the victims at Bleiburg and its aftermath often did so at great risk to their lives – the first commemoration in Bleiburg occurred in 1952, All Saints Day, when three survivors laid a wreath at the graves of Croatian soldiers in the Unter-Loibach cemetery. As attendance of the commemoration grew over the following few years, held annually on Mother’s Day, Yugoslav intelligence agents began monitoring, threatening, and killing Croatian émigrés involved with the Bleiburg ceremony. Communist Yugoslavia Secret Police/UDBA operating internationally hunted down their Croat political opponents with beastly brutality.

Original monument to Croatian victims at cemetery near Bleiburg

Original monument to Croatian victims
at cemetery near Bleiburg

 

The atrocities and mass murders committed by Josip Broz Tito’s Partisan units of the Yugoslav Army immediately after the Second World War had no place in the conscience of Socialist Yugoslavia. More than once, the annual Croatian commemoration of the Bleiburg victims was subject to attacks carried out by the socialist Yugoslav state. Abroad in the West, on Austrian soil, the Yugoslav secret service (UDBA) did not shy away from murdering the protagonist of the Croatian memory culture, Nicola Martinovic, as late as 1975. The official history was aligned with a firm interpretational paradigm that called for a glorification of the anti-fascist ‘people’s liberation resistance.’ With the breakup of Yugoslavia and its socialist regime in 1991, the identity-establishing accounts of contemporary witnesses, which had mainly been cherished in exile circles abroad, increasingly reached public awareness in Croatia and Slovenia.

In the 1990s Croatia witnessed the emergence of a memory that had been suppressed by the socialist-Yugoslav regime—namely the Bleiburg tragedy. The situation in Slovenia was similar in terms of identity and remembrance culture… Reports on the communist postwar crimes and on the countless discoveries of mass gravesites have also begun circulating in the media of the German-speaking world in the last few years…” part of foreword to the English translation of the book by Florian Thomas Rulitz, “The Tragedy of Bleiburg and Viktring 1945”

Tragedy of Bleiburg
The collapse of communism, the 1990’s war in Croatia, and the post-war efforts at reconciliation and EU integration all contributed to the public changes in the meanings, symbolism, and political significance of the commemorative events at Bleiburg. The annual gathering at Bleiburg Field transformed from an illegal commemoration attended largely by émigrés into a commemoration of victims of communist crimes and a proud symbol for all Croats who had sacrificed themselves for the freedom and independence of the Croatian state.

In 1990, on the 45th anniversary of the Bleiburg massacre, the Croatian media reported on the commemoration at Bleiburg for the first time in Croatia, but such reporting, especially the left-leaning media, has often continued with utter brutally untruthful allegations against innocent victims, often miserably implying they (or many of them) deserved death even if they were not ever tried in court or found guilty, fueling international media to do the same. That’s the talk of executioners who do not want to bear any guilt for their crimes that sadly still lingers strongly, preventing the victims to rest in dignified peace they truly deserve.

Tomislav Karamarko, First Deputy Prime Minister (front left) and Zeljko Reiner (front right) President of Croatian Parliament Pay respects to victims of communist crimes at Bleiburg Saturday 14 May 2016 Photo: Vlada RH/Twitter

Tomislav Karamarko, First Deputy Prime Minister (front left)
and Zeljko Reiner (front right)
President of Croatian Parliament
Pay respects to victims of
communist crimes at Bleiburg
Saturday 14 May 2016
Photo: Vlada RH/Twitter

 

So, amidst all the politicking and media “cannibalism” let’s remind ourselves:

What has actually happened on the 15th of May 1945, the day of the surrender? When after the laying down of the weapons Tito’s partisans were certain that their victims (Croatian army) could no longer defend themselves and that the British did not intend to intervene (the British, namely, threatened that they would bombard the Croatian troops and civilians if the Croats did not immediately lay down their arms), the partisan commissioner Milan Basta, a Serb from Lika, issued his order. Only those who were present at that apocalyptic massacre could describe what thereupon followed. Here is the testimony of one eyewitness. “Men, women and children were falling down in sheaves while the partisans were mowing left and right with their machine guns over the open field. Soon so many people were slaughtered that the partisans ventured to descend among the survivors and with visible pleasure to beat them to death, to kick them with boots and to stab them with bayonets.” (Report of the eyewitness Ted Pavić in Nikolaj Tolstoy’s book “The Minister and the Massacres”, London 1986, p. 104). Another eyewitness Jure Raguz reports, that in his vicinity he saw a desperate Croatian officer shoot his two small children, a boy and a girl, then his wife and in the end himself (quoted on the above indicated page). When the slaughter at Bleiburg was finished on the 16th of May, the remaining mass of disarmed and frightened Croatian prisoners was driven on foot into Yugoslavia, to the blood-fields of Kočevski Rog and others further on, on a death march known as the ‘Way of the Cross’. A Slovenian Franc Perme in his documentary book ‘Concealed graves and their victims’ proves, that in the first days after the end of the Second World War, only within the area of Slovenia, therefore outside of Austrian Bleiburg, further189,000 Croats were killed, and further 144,500 died in the death columns on the Way of the Cross from the Slovenian-Croatian border to the Romanian border…

Bishop Franjo Komarica Photo:Ivica Galovic/Pixsell

Bishop Franjo Komarica
Photo:Ivica Galovic/Pixsell

In his homily, Bishop Komarica said that Bleiburg is the most prominent symbol of totalitarianism and ideologies that have humiliated and disgraced human dignity of humanity – terribly and deeply; shamelessly trampling upon human dignity, rights and freedoms and destroying a man’s sense of co-responsibility and moral and ethical values. Lest we forget! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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