Elections in Croatia – Winds of Change

 

If William Shakespeare was right and life is nothing more but a stage - then we are all actors. And that´s what the Croats did on July 5th. They played their role yet again in the oldest play of political theatre – the parliamentary elections. As the youngest member-state of the European Union, Croatia is a country with barely 4 million inhabitants, a country with a struggling economy and a severe negative, a demographic shift which threatens the stability of the country itself. At the same time, a whole generation of Croatians seek their fortune and opportunities in all the corners of the western world. All the mentioned problems should have been more than enough for the average Croatian citizen to go out and vote.

 

 

The Turnout

 

Unfortunately, the turnout in Croatia for the parliamentary elections dropped once again. Barely 45% of the voters participated in the polls. Can the Croats be blamed for not being motivated to vote? Yes and no. An old saying goes: "If you didn´t vote, you don´t have the right to complain how things are". Croatian national politics have been stale since 1999 when the first Croatian president Dr. Franjo Tudjman died. Tudjman, who led the Croatian people to victory in the War Of Independence 1991-1995 when the country struggled for international recognition, managed to gather an overwhelming majority of Croats into a single political movement known as the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). The HDZ was one of the first political parties formed after communism in Eastern Europe collapsed. Yugoslavia faced much-needed change after a 45-year-old communist dictatorship. The Croatian Democratic Union under Tudjman was a nationalist people´s movement which had the potential to grow into a "third way" political movement.

 

Tudjman´s charisma, his profound understanding of geopolitics and history made him the born leader. His party, the HDZ, became a landmark for nationhood and patriotic politics. The HDZ, however, would face a significant crisis after Tudjman´s death in late 1999, losing the elections in 2000 to the former communists, now re-branded as a "Social Democratic Party" or SDP. The post-Tudjman era brought new political faces to the forefront, especially in the HDZ which was being cleansed and purged from "radical nationalist elements". The new party leadership wanted the HDZ to be a new centre-right EU party while playing the nationalist card before every election. The scam worked. The HDZ overran and took power in Croatia once again in 2003 on nationalist promises they couldn´t and wouldn´t keep and pushed the SDP into the opposition.

 

The Headless Right

 

The Croatian nationalists were almost in a state of paralysis as both the HDZ and SDP focused on Brussels only, pushing every spark of nationalism to the edge of the political arena.

 

The nationalists had their share of problems. Superficial ideological differences, personal interests, unimaginative politics, no real political action, lack of real leadership and an image that was outdated – all contributed to the fact that Croatia remained a two-party system in the hands of the Eurocentric HDZ which mutated into a cheap copy of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the liberal-left SPD.

 

The HDZ-SDP rule over the Croats pushed Croatia into a deep economic crisis. The country finds itself with hardly any industry, hundreds of thousands young unemployed (Since Croatia´s accession into the EU, more than 300,000 young, educated Croats left the country) While both the HDZ and SDP continued camouflaging Croatia´s problems with commercials of the beautiful Croatian coast. They were giving the impression that lying under a palm tree on the Adriatic coast would solve all problems and tourism (the countries most significant economic branch) would save the country.

 

Covid-19 Panic and Economic Crisis

 

It took a Covid-19 pandemic to prove otherwise. The country can´t hide behind tourism, expecting foreign visitors to fill up the pockets of dysfunctional Croatian economy from April till September, allowing the corrupt political parasites to go on as usual till the cycle repeats anew.

 

Since the so-called Corona Virus outbreak, it was clear that this year there won´t be any tourist season and therefore - no money. Fearful of what may come in September when the country´s hefty bills come to the table, the prime minister of Croatia - Andrej Plenkovic called for elections on July 5th. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Croatian right started to form a coalition. Almost 20 years of failed attempts, they were unsuccessfully trying to bring the right parties together - culminated with the success of Dr. Miroslav Skoro by uniting the Croatian political right. Miroslav Skoro who has made a name for himself as a singer of patriotic, pop-rock-folk songs and even landing number one hits was the piece of the puzzle that was missing. Skoro is not only a professional singer but also a highly educated businessman who held a position as ambassador for Croatia in Hungary at one point.

 

The coalition of the right named "Domovinski Pokret" (Eng. Fatherland Movement) under Skoro was a promising project from the start, which combined a spectre of political figures stretching from the centre-right to the radical right. One could criticize the movement of lack of focus on the real social, economic and demographic issues of the country during the pre-election period, letting themselves being drawn into conversations about trivial ideological matters. Perhaps the average Croat voter could forgive this saying: "They are new, let them learn". But the critical question is, do the Croats have time until the right-wing coalition learns that the focus is on the people not on topics from a history class. The Croats want to see change and demand action. Although the alliance under Miroslav Skoro seems to be stable, their political program is lacking and is still unclear what they´re focusing on. Their slogan is "Sovereignty", but apart from a few people like Prof. Tomislav Sunic and former Croatian general Zeljko Glasnovic who point out the dangers of Croatia of accepting the Euro as its currency, the attempt of transferring even more sovereignty to the EU institutions. Not much people from the ranks of Miroslav Skoro seem to focus on such vital issues.

 

The country needs re-industrialization, investments, political and social reforms, but very few cohesive arguments have been made in this regard. Skoro may be another short-lived phenomenon on the political landscape like the AfD in Germany or Salvini in Italy, but this only confirms the lesson of genuine nationalist parties that populism with no real political concept behind it has no future. But the Croats seem willing to give them a chance.

 

Election Results and Culminating Ideologies

 

The results of the Croatian elections are now official, and because the political right in Croatia joined forces under Skoro only 50 days ago, their effect on the public as well as the results should be satisfying.

 

Croatia remains in the firm grip of the Eurocentric HDZ with 66 seats in the Croatian parliament. The SDP follows with 41 seats, and Miroslav Skoro and his right-wing coalition got 16 seats. What is evident is that Croatian politics are getting more polarized. For the first time, the radical left entered the Croatian parliament with six seats, promising a very charged political and ideological fight in the next four years.

 

The HDZ will not be able to form the government without a coalition partner. The first and logical partner would be Miroslav Skoro, but how the Eurocentric prime minister and HDZ chairman Andrej Plenkovic will try to pursue the populist and right-wing coalition into an agreement is unclear. Miroslav Skoro and his coalition partners told journalists that if the HDZ wants them in a government-coalition, the HDZ will have to find a way to return to the path that leads to a more patriotic, Croatia-oriented national policy. Such disagreements could cause turmoil between Miroslav Skoro and the HDZ leadership which is unwilling to abandon their EPP/CDU/Brussels politics.

 

Voting Irregularities

 

The most compelling element of Croatian elections are the voters of the Croatian diaspora. For almost twenty years, the HDZ and SDP have made it purposely more difficult for the Croats who live abroad (nearly 4.5 million Croats live outside Croatia) to participate in the voting. Reducing the number of voting locations and reducing the number of seats in the Croatian parliament which represented the votes of the diaspora Croats. Reasons are simple. The Croatian diaspora is mainly right-wing and would interfere with the constellation of political power in the Croatian parliament. Although the HDZ grew to its current power precisely because of the loyalty of the diaspora and their sympathy for the policies of former President Franjo Tudjman, the HDZ´s Brussels policies were more crucial, cutting down the diaspora influence in the Croatian parliament.

 

Election candidates like Prof. Tomislav Sunic and Zeljko Glasnovic are the voice of the real nationalist voters. The Croatian diaspora had the chance to elect them, but unfortunately, all three seats from the diaspora went to the HDZ whose influence is evident even among the Croatian living abroad. Several days before the election, Zeljko Glasnovic got banned from social media for releasing an official pre-election video, without any further explanation of how the footage broke any of the social media rules or community standards. Glasnovic and Sunic also went on a pre-election tour through Austria and Germany, to find out that someone has called up the German police and security forces. The unknown person claimed that Glasnovic and Sunic are organizing a Nazi gathering. One day after the official voting results came in, general Glasnovic addressed the public by releasing a video where he presented the official statistics of the voting results in the diaspora. Despite getting even more votes than four years ago, and winning in Germany, Austria, Argentina, Australia, Switzerland etc. Glasnovic cannot enter the parliament, because according to the HDZ and other institutions, he is ten votes short. Glasnovic has now the legitimate right to file in a complain so the ballots can be recounted on several voting locations where visible irregularities were spotted.

 

When it comes to politics in Croatia, and this goes for all of Europe today, people need to learn their lessons the hard way. Emotional clinging to a mainstream political party like the HDZ in Croatia, whose hey-day is long past will surely come to haunt the Croats who elected them. Both Zeljko Glasnovic and Tomislav Sunic got a large number of votes, but still not enough to gain one seat in the Croatian parliament. All because the system works in such a way to neutralize all possible and real opposition. Glasnovic, who was one of the most outspoken and genuine nationalists in the parliament, for the time being, lost his seat.

 

What Remains

 

Croatia has voted, and the only thing the Croatian nationalists can do is look into the future. There are local elections in Croatia next year, and elections for the EU parliament are always an excellent opportunity to give intellectual and promising candidates a chance to represent the Croats on a higher political level. Europa Terra Nostra is the centre of political cooperation and support for all European nationalists. Tom Sunic, who has been our friend and ally, and Zeljko Glasnovic, both have done great work in networking and making their cause known throughout Europe. The only job to do is - make Croats, at least those outside of Croatia realize who their friends and foes truly are.

 

As Zeus told Hermes, his trusted messenger: Bring my message to the people - that´s where the ETN extends its hand and makes sure to do so.

 

Ivan Bilokapic

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