Ivan Kovačić’s Election Role

They somehow underestimated him, although not so much him, Ivan Kovačić, as the process he had started with his rebellion. First, a good two years ago, he won the election in his town, Omiš. Surprisingly, he won against the mayor who had consistently ruled this coastal town for the last twenty years. Due to an absolute support of one of the two major Croatian parties, there was practically no right to object. In December 2014, MP’s from the abovementioned big party prevented the adoption of the city budget and consequently achieved call for new early elections with their consistent absence from meetings. The complete apparatus of the big party was activated again, because a mistake and election of other candidate were not allowed to happen again. And Kovačić ran again, with the help of group of voters. He probably spoke back then about the fact that the both big parties that alternate in power in the country, Milanović’s and Karamarko’s, used the same political language. He won the election again, with a large majority, and became mayor again. On the evening of new electoral victory, Boža Petrov visited him and congratulate him. He was also a mayor, who won against also almost unquestionable long-time mayor Stipo Gabrić in also a coastal Metković. They probably talked about a possible joint participation of the independent mayors in national elections on that post-election night. That way, they determined the content of the program. Repetition of what had contributed to their local win. Reduction of government administration costs, administration staff reductions, wage cuts, sale of official cars, cut of various bonuses and benefits. In short, the introduction of certain type of state Protestantism and solidarity with the citizens.

After that night, there was no much news on Kovačić. At the time of the forthcoming national elections, attention was focused on another place. First of all, with which result difference would the party of the opposition leader, Miroslav Karamarko, win. A good election result was almost certain. The government of Zoran Milanović recorded a parallel decline, both in economic results and impact of the ruling party and the government as a whole. Forecasts were also bad. All of them. Economic, political and social.

The elections had been practically decided even before they began. Milanović was having problem after problem. First, the controversial purchase of new cars for the state administration and ministers, then serious problems with the right to use the Cyrillic alphabet in public life and the planned straining of relations with all neighbouring countries. In his party, he had to quite seriously confront, for the very first time, his opponents, whom he was always able to timely remove or silence up until now. The voting on the exclusion of Slavko Linić, the minister of finance, from the party, ended with a difference of only one vote in favour of Milanović, after a long discussion. And his party’s candidate in the presidential election, Dr. Ivo Josipović, has lost the election. Primarily because he didn’t dissociate himself enough politically from Milanović.

In all that chaos, Milanović nonetheless brought two decisions. Both of them were good. Both prevented large electoral defeat and kept him in the game for creation of coalition.

The first thing he did was to appoint an American with Czech roots, Alex Brown, for his electoral adviser, who constitutes the closest part of the long-standing team that takes care of the electoral successes of the Democrats along with Craig Varoga, American with Slovenian roots. The second decision was a decision on the new minister of finance. He chose Boris Lalovac. He was almost the complete opposite to dismissed Linić, who spoke primarily about the necessity of saving and filling of state budget. The new minister was, even with such a special, almost hedonistic appearance and a different, Dalmatian joy, a supporter of better life of citizens and the growth of spending. At the same time, he began an almost quixotic war with what he called greedy bankers.

Brown and Lalovac brought a revolution. Brown with, as we can  see today, the key guidelines of the new electoral performance. That it is necessary to win, on first place, potential voters of the parties that were a mean between two large parties since months ago, Orah and Živi zid, for Milanović’s election pool, and marginalize the parties. Then, re-establish the connection between state corruption and the largest opposition party, and, at the end, problematize the possible role of Karamarko as the new prime minister, first of all because he, allegedly, does not have the appropriate selection of competent staff and because, allegedly, he doesn’t speak any world language. Lalovac with his speech that he wanted to help citizens, by making the bankers convert the Swiss loans into euro, by making special payments as a help to pensioners, then by writing off debts to socially most vulnerable groups and with numerous announcements of a better life for all, and not only selected ones, promises for which one can never quite know if they would remain only election promises.

Milanović followed. No, not completely. First, he told all neighbouring countries what their role was and how to behave in relations with Croatia. Only then he requested from the newly elected President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović not to interfere in the work of the government and to comply with her constitutional role and to primarily fulfil her big electoral obligation on the required national savings, and to also move from Tuđman’s courts into a smaller presidential palace. Just as she promised and as she had chosen herself. He adopted a decision on freezing the rate of the Swiss franc and Croatian kuna and reining of greedy banks, in order that, as he said, citizens could sleep in peace, and not to panically follow exchange rates. He announced that the Croatian economy would come out of recession after several years and that it was due to his government. He also spoke of a better life today, not tomorrow.

Tomislav Karamarko didn’t follow that. He continued to talk more about communism and his followers and on the necessity of lustration than about the new economic program of the new government and better life. That speech about the communists was immediately ran down by Milanović with the proposal of naming the new Zagreb airport after Dr. Franjo Tuđman.

Karamarko nonetheless won the elections, but with difference too small to be able to form a government alone with his coalition.  Therefore, he has to search for support (as well as Milanović, who lost for several mandates) in, in the meanwhile, almost forgotten and electorally undervalued group of independent mayors who gave themselves a significant name Most (“bridge”) and became the third strongest party in the new convocation of Croatian Parliament.

Ivan Kovačić and Božo Petrov could not have even imagined that election night in Omiš the fact that they would literally decide on the composition of the new government.