Elections in Croatia

The results of parliamentary elections in the neighbouring country of Croatia are not always consequence of the political success or convincing election campaign. They are also the product of coincidence.
If the president Franjo Tuđman had still been alive in 2000, the winner of the election would mostly have been his party, not the Dr. Ivica Račan’s social democrats. The situation was similar in the elections seven years later, for which Račan believed that he could again win, but in the meantime he had to go due to sickness. His successor had to leave the election victory to Dr. Ivo Sanader.

Sanader, who is a doctor in comparative literature, made a key breakthrough then and became a desired guest in the key European capitals. Račan knew how to break up with Tuđman’s basic state doctrine of necessity to establish clear national territories and, consequently, humane population resettlement, and Sanader knew how to do everything for which Račan did not have enough power. I am talking about the cooperation with the International Tribunal for War Crimes Committed in the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. He was able to demonstrate that he had the political power. And he was actually the one who made decisions in Croatia. Also, consequently, he was also responsible for winning of new leader of the social democrats, Zoran Milanović, in the parliamentary elections of 2011. He is also indirectly responsible today for his defeat, although still in prison.

Milanović simply had to win the penultimate parliamentary elections in 2011. And the new president of the then governing HDZ, Jadranka Kosor, was doomed to electoral defeat. Sanader suddenly resigned as party president in July 2009, and as a president of the government as well. It was a shock. Primarily because the causes were not known. Moving of police chief Vladimir Faber to formally higher and in fact completely irrelevant place of deputy minister of internal affairs and investigation of the purchase of trucks started against a friend of confidence of the then prime minister, defence minister Branislav Rončević, was very indicative. A person whom Sanader moved within the government to the new ministerial position at the start of the police investigation. He became the new interior minister. It was a time when the Croatian state prosecutor had opened, however secret, investigation against the prime minister.
Sanader resigned in July. A little later, in mid-September, he invited the new president of the party and the government, whose appointment was suggested by himself, to lunch at his favourite and famous Zagreb restaurant Baltazar.
Kosor, who was considered to be his faithful political companion and the government’s deputy until then, protested probably for the first time. She realized that she was the one who had power now. When she spoke gently, during her verification in the Croatian Parliament, of housewives who have to care about the home when there is no housefather, then, while enjoying an excellent white fish, she said no to Sanader’s proposal that the party and the government must have a parallel leadership. With former prime minister as a master chief. That “no” did not only mean refusal of former boss’ proposal and breaking of relations with him. That “no“ meant determination that exactly her government would finalize negotiations with the European Union and sign an agreement on the European full membership. Consequently, that it would regulate the relations with neighbouring countries and primarily resolve outstanding border and other issues with Slovenia. The meeting in the castle Trakošćan with her colleague Prime Minister Borut Pahor and search for new solutions to the problem of borders through arbitration literally began in the restaurant Baltazar with lady’s “no“.

This “no” also meant support to the police and prosecutors during investigations of corruption in the country. That was a decision of the prime minister that caused her electoral defeat and Milanović’s victory.
Kosor was successful, despite all the problems, formal ones, since she was not elected in the elections, but only confirmed by acclamation, and essential ones, because she inherited the government, which led the country during crisis. She managed to solve the internal and economic and social problems, and she accepted a key agreement with Pahor, of which the Croatian membership in the EU depended. However, it was not enough. No, it remained hidden because too big and too strong shadow of already criminalized Sanader was falling down. The contours of the pseudo-state, which funded the selected individuals and their projects, became visible. Media discoveries followed one after another, first the non-transparent sale of the hotel Liburnia to the owner who is also now the owner of Portorož hotels Metropol, then the method of financing of US company Bechtel for the complicated construction of motorway or Sanader’s unannounced visit to opera performances in Verona, probably also dedicated to the dialogue about the sale of the pharmaceutical company Pliva to American multinational Barr. At the end of October 2011, the secretary of the then secretary general of the ruling party took over the letter in which the then attorney general notified them that they had opened an investigation against HDZ. The elections were finally decided. Success in European negotiations and even relatively good economic results had been lost at the fact that the ruling ones established a state within a state.

Zoran Milanović’s win was certain. The coalition led by his party won 80 parliamentary seats, and the party of Jadranka Kosor almost half less.

Dr Ivo Sanader is still in prison. And he probably voted there in yesterday’s parliamentary elections. Although he was acquitted, first in the Supreme, and then in the Constitutional Court. Formally, they should have released him some time ago and allowed him to defend himself in the remaining processes as a free person. But he somehow became the hostage of his former power. And therefore incarcerated until the end of the election, or even until forming of new government. As if those in power feared that his release from prison Remetinec would relativize his possible guilt in the formation of state that is almost in the water and as if their challengers also feared that his freedom would again revive memories of those years.

The term of office will be given to yesterday’s winner by the president of the country, Kolinda Grabar Kitarović. So far, we know about two different principles, which are not only formal, but can significantly contribute to the success of the mandator of the government. According to the first one, the right to attempt to form a government coalition is given to the president of the party that won the elections, and according to the second principle, the mandate is granted to the person who has submitted to the head of state a sufficient list of elected delegates who will support his/her government.

The second principle was advocated by the then president Stipe Mesić after the elections in November 2007. However, Milanović has failed to gather sufficient majority. He stopped at sort of deception when he came, followed by the fear of HDZ competitors, for talks with Mesić with red folder, for which the participants were convinced that it contained names necessary to form the government. But it was only an empty folder. The mandate was given to Sanader despite Mesić’s political sympathies towards Milanović.

It is hard to doubt that the President Grabar Kitarović will not give the mandate to form the government to a yesterday’s relative winner, Tomislav Karamarko and HDZ party, very quickly, after today’s election night. It will make it easier to negotiate with a third major party, the diverse political group Most, formed by distinguished mayors, who were able to resist the dictates of big ones in their communities and have succeeded. Also due to some kind of protest logic, modesty, governing. Most managed to gather the voices of protest and to in fact take them from the former president of the republic, Dr. Ivo Josipović, and business strategist of Milanović’s government, Radimir Čačić and party Orah, of Milanović’s former minister Mirela Holy, especially favoured before the elections.

Karamarko said, the day before the election, that he would invite all parties to cooperate in the project of better life of Croatian citizens at the night of election victory. And he has opened the last question of today’s election with this. Will he send this offer to current ruling party, the social democrats? It would not be the first time. Ivica Račan, after his electoral defeat in 2003, offered Sanader a political agreement called Alliance for Europe. After all the disputes, the parties have begun to cooperate. Račan paid a terrible media price, primarily through claims that he opened the door to the possibility of a large coalition.
Karamarko will most likely be given the mandate to form the government in the coming days. As a politician, he is skilful enough to successfully use it.