A Difficult Beginning For Tihomir Tim Orešković

Not very long before the death of Croatia’s President Tudjman in 1999, influential individuals within the party began to organise meetings. Mate Granić, Vladimir Šeks, Valentić, Jure Radić and the “guardian” of the Presidential Palace – Dr Ivić Pašalić. They discussed the power sharing and how the government would operate in the days after the President’s passing away. They even thought about possible appointments for the party’s leader and for the Prime Minister. Dr Ivo Sanader had never been invited to these meetings. However, at the time, he claimed (I concluded this from the content of his conversations with editors of the Jutarnji list magazine – Marko Grčić and Davor Butković, which took place in May 2000 at the bistro of the Esplanada Hotel) that it is necessary to take over the leadership of the party first and win the parliamentary elections later.

Sanader knew that no co-habitation was possible during the Prime Minister’s mandate and that this was the reason why he first had to ensure dominance over Dr Pašalić, considering this to be the key requirement for successful government and, as he said at the time: for the shaping of a modern conservative party. Two years later, at the 7th Assembly of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Sanader claimed a slim victory of less than a hundred votes more than Pašalić. He used various means to achieve this victory, some of which were not completely in line with generally accepted ethical norms or good upbringing. This victory made it possible for him to create a new pro-European government and to invite his major opponent – Dr Ivica Račan, the president of the social democrats, to join him in forming a large government coalition.

Sanader had been working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs long enough to be familiar with the case of co-governance in the neighbouring state.

The residence of the Serbian President at Tolstojeva 33, in the neighbourhood of Dedinje, was already guarded by cordons of police.

One of the solutions which Milošević deemed viable was to award the leadership positions in the “third Yugoslavia” to a respectable and influential writer Dobrica Ćosić and to a successful American businessman Milan Panić. The first was supposed to be elected President and the second – Prime Minister of the federal government.

The day before their official nomination, Milošević made a call to Panić from his family home in Požarevac, to check whether Panić decided to accept the candidacy and received a short confirmation – yes.

Milošević was in a hurry to announce his candidate’s affirmative answer because he wanted to send a message both to the general public at home and to American and European politicians. He dictated a letter addressing the public to his Chef of Staff, Goran Milinović, a man with a neat and carefully trimmed goatee, who kept a terrarium with a Vietnamese walking stick in his office.

However, just a day later, after Panić had met with his American counsellors, Milošević received a new telegram from America. Panić told him that he couldn’t accept this candidacy since, in order to be successful, he must gain the support not only of the ruling party, but of all political parties, key individuals within the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Art, Church and leading businessmen. The telegrams ensued, first from the Patriarch Pavle and the Serbian Orthodox Church, then from the President of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Art – academic Dušan Kanazir, and from businessmen and numerous individuals. Panić reached his decision and became the President of the federal government. He understood his position in its literal sense: »Milošević is just a governor of one the republics while I’m the real boss« he explained.

Already, at one of the first meetings with Milošević, Panić demanded his withdrawal and resignation.

The agreement on resignation was supposed to be signed together with the American General Secretary, James Baker. The document envisaged Milošević’s resignation, his departure, along with his family, to USA, issuance of American documents and a position as the director of Panić’s bank, together with all necessities to make his daily life in California comfortable: a house, a car, a yacht and a pay-check in the amount of $150,000. Only several days later, Milošević cancelled the deal sending them a message to forget all about that conversation. It was already clear that Panić’s mission is about to go awry though it had not even started yet. Milošević still maintained control of the National Assembly’s voting body. Panić made another attempt. He told Milošević that he was not only the Prime Minister but also a Defence Minister and that he would issue an order to his generals to arrest him and that he would come with them, too. Milošević responded by asking him not to come personally since the two of them were friends and said that he should send only his generals as they would be arrested on the spot and would most likely face a firing squad. Soon after, Panić made an attempt to form his own party and ran for elections but he lost and headed back home to USA.

Ivica Račan once again personally experienced the principle of duality – being both the Prime Minister and the Party’s President. Ljubo Jurčić was a member of his government – his Minister of Agriculture. After the elections were lost, Račan appointed him President of the Party’s Economic Council. Račan later made him a proposal for them to share the possible new government mandate, offering to withdraw to Parliament, take care of the country’s accession to EU and to be a mentor to younger members of the Parliament.

Račan left the government relatively quickly and almost abruptly due to being diagnosed with cancer. Zoran Milanović won the party elections in 2007 and again proposed Jurčić as a possible Prime Minister. However, this cohabitation soon came to an end, too. Initially, due to disagreements with Milanović’s proposal to take away the voting rights from the Croats living outside Croatia and also from those living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and then because of Milanović’s proposals regarding nominations for ministers and the sheer number of ministries, and not the least because of Jurčić’s disagreement with the attacks on their rivals – HDZ. Jurčić stepped down before he could possibly take the office.

These were not the only examples. There was also a successful attempt made by the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, a European Commissioner, professor and the president of the prestigious Bucconi University. He took over the government in the capacity of an independent expert, in order to calm down the erratic financial market. His mandate ended relatively quickly following the decision of the party leaders to organise new elections leaving Monti to attempt to form his own party.

Tihomir Tim Orešković, who is currently a successful businessman in the pharmaceutical industry, started a new experiment. He was granted the possibility to be the Prime Minister primarily due to the outcome of the elections which prevented Karamarko’s coalition to form the government on its own, requiring him to make a deal with the Most party. He was plagued by one problem above all. And that is how to be a successful Prime Minister, and at the same time sufficiently politically apt to protect his authority, (with Valentić adding to that) and government’s autonomy, from the daily pressure by the political parties that voted for his election. Nothing we can do about, but wish him good luck.