Croatian Parliamentary Elections

It was clear that something was wrong. Tomislav Karamarko, president of the largest Croatian political party in power, simply did not understand he was left completely alone. Surely, due to the fact that just a few days earlier he was not able to evaluate that a publicly open case of the cooperation between his wife and the trustees of the Hungarian oil company that, with the help of unusual operations, gain the control over the Croatian oil company, was not something he will be able to resolve using his powers. This was the biggest surprise. Karamarko was not a beginner in politics, on the contrary, he participates in the adoption of a series of important state decisions. He was the Minister of internal affairs and the chief of intelligence. It seemed that he could own all, public and secret, information on his position. But, it seems he did not. Or, he did have the key information. That he was the political past.

In late afternoon, on the 4th of June this year, with a smile on his face, he looked confident in being in total control of his political destiny, he explained they found a solution for the crisis in the Government. This meant an acting response was found to the requests for his resignation from the position of the First Vice President of the Croatian Government. We talked about tactics, he has placed some weight on his announcement, and decided, he was talking about the management of his party, that we have sufficient elements for reconstruction of the governmental coalition. Tihomir Oreskovic, the Prime Minister, that Karamarko persuaded into taking this role just a few months ago, was fired that afternoon. Without us, he has no support in the Parliament and his Government will fall, concluded Karamarko, seriously.

Three days later, representatives of the largest political party in the Parliament initiated the procedure for the voting on distrust to their Prime Minister. The reason for such a step that is not so common in the European politics was that Croatia requires a tough, homogenous and unified Government. The first step towards such government was a new coalition, that is, new partners in Parliament, that would create, along with Karamarko’s party, the coalition for reforms and development.

Former Prime Minister and the President of the largest oppositional party, Zoran Milanovic realized that the planned project of Government coalition reconstruction is not feasible. Therefore, he responded excellently. He requested emergency Parliamentary elections that should be held by the middle of July. I held all the cards for the large election victory in his hands. Complications regarding lack of activities of the Oreskovic’s Government and external evaluations on dangerous attempts of rephrasing the country’s history provided sufficient reasons for Milanovic’s party to become, once again, as the public polls show, the party that would be the favorite of the voters. In this, Milanovic had a personal satisfaction. Namely, part of the dispute between him and the former President dr. Ivo Josipovic, was related to a different view on state authority organization. Milanovic wanted to essentially change the institute of self-determination of the Prime Minister and the President, in foreign affairs and related to security agencies. Therefore, occasionally, proposals on the new method of selecting the President appeared, not on the election polls and through direct elections, but through the Government coalition agreement and through Parliamentary elections. Josipovic, along with the mentioned intentions on the method of realistic reduction of power and influence of the President, searched for responses in the method of avoiding both presidents of two large political parties after the elections. This is probably when the idea was born to award the Prime Minister role not to the president of the winning political party, that is, not to Milanovic or Karamarko, but to some of the renowned businessmen that would be capable of executing reforms with the full support of the President of the country.

Somewhat later, Milanovic was in the opposition, Josipovic lost the presidential elections, this ambition and Oreskovic’s leadership were proven non-feasible.

In addition to request for emergency elections Karamarko insisted there is a sufficient number of votes in the Parliament for the formation of the new coalition in the Government.

And then it happened. And it was quite final. Ivan Miklenic, the editor in chief of the Croatian Catholic Weekly “Glas Koncila”, at the middle of June this year, wrote an editorial note and directly accused the top of the ruling party that it destabilizes the Government, acts against the state interests and causes damage to the country. And, in the same account, warned Karamarko that it has secret ties to Milanovic’s party, planning the dismissal of the Prime Minister Oreskovic and new Parliamentary elections, together. However, neither of those two, stated in the editorial note, is good for the country.

Karamarko was never so alone. It seemed that Milanovic was facing a new election victory and new, almost easy, formation of the new Government. Milanovic also believed that. However, he overlooked one important fact.

Late Archbishop Dr. Franc Perko often came to visit and lunch with the Slovenian Prime Minister Dr. Janez Drnovsek. I was mostly present, as well. Both Prime Minister and me would receive presents on that occasion, a special kind of brandy (herbal) prepared by the Archbishop with special care, out of hundreds of plants and a series of prayers. Just like that, our conversation would start with Perko’s smile and expectations expressed for him to be, as he put it, released from the Earthly ties.

One of these conversations happened in April 1999. At the beginning of this month the Croatian Parliament at that time adopted a declaration that the sea border with Slovenia shall run at the middle of the Gulf of Piran. By the end of the month both states agreed to ask former Minister of Defense of the United States of America William Perry to act as an intermediary in this dispute. Thus, a part of the conversation was related to new inter-state conflicts. Then, Perko, for the first time, described in detail the binding relationship of the top of the Croation Catholic Church and the party founded by Dr. Franjo Tudjman. Namely, the Church will always support this party, but not necessarily its current leaders, was one of the evaluations of the Archbishop.

This is the fact Milanovic overlooked. The fact that Karamarko had to go meant only that the ruling party will reform. The new President, elected on the direct elections of all party members was Andrej Plenkovic, a moderate diplomat and politician. He managed to balance the relations between the fractions in the party relatively fast, and showed, with successful public appearances, that he can act as a leader and form a group of decisive associates. At the same time, he quickly announced the decision that the party will go to the elections by itself, with no predesignated coalitions.

The result of the elections was no longer a given. Surveys received by Milanovic showed that the large advantage of this party is reducing. Too fast for the easy win. Additional worry was also the fact that there were practically no more new options for formation of additional post-election coalitions. Most probably this is when Milanovic estimated that he must act and attract voters that would never vote for him.

He made a horrible mistake. His messages did not reach liberal or non-decided voters that were shown as abstainers in the polls. He acted completely opposite. He was harshly attacking the neighboring countries and named their governments almost stupid. His attitude on necessary relations between Croatia and the European Union were quite unusual. He radicalized his speech and spoke down to his political opponents and at the same time publicly announced that a part of his family acted against Partisan units. His entire election campaign was focused on the issue of the difference between Partisans and Ustasha during, before and after the WW2. Maybe, he could have achieved some results. However, the second party in the conversation was missing. No Karamarko anymore. Plenkovic could not and would not speak in that language.

This is why the result from Sunday could not have been a surprise. Plenkovic conceivably won the Croatian Parliament elections with his party.