Hasanbegović Evicted from HDZ

One of the party’s most prominent members is not a member anymore.

After deciding to run for the Zagreb City Assembly on a list headed by independent candidate Bruna Esih against his party, and after organizing a press conference this morning where he sharply criticized HDZ and party leader Andrej Plenković, HDZ has announced that Zlatko Hasanbegović is no longer a member of the party.

“After a review of the list of candidates for the Zagreb City Assembly, it has been established that former HDZ presidency member Zlatko Hasanbegović is a candidate on a list headed by independent candidate Bruna Esih. In accordance with article 13, paragraph 1d of the HDZ Statutes, his membership in HDZ has been terminated. The Statutes clearly stipulate that membership in HDZ is terminated if a member is nominated without the consent of the party,” announced HDZ in an official statement, adding that the notice of the termination of membership had been sent to Hasanbegović as well.

Reacting to Hasanbegović’s eviction from the party, HDZ deputy president Milijan Brkić said on Monday that Hasanbegović had himself left the party by joining Esih’s list. “Mr. Hasanbegović has decided to leave the party by running on an independent list of Bruna Esih. There is no further discussion. Given that he was a member of central party bodies, we will just officially acknowledge the situation and that is it,” said Brkić, adding that he “personally regretted what has happened, but Hasanbegović, like everyone else, has the right to choose his path. Good luck to him, but HDZ will go on,” said Brkić.

Zlatko Hasanbegović is a historian who entered politics in January 2016, when he was selected to become the Culture Minister in the first HDZ-MOST government, led by Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković. He is known for his right-wing positions and during his term he became a star of the right part of the political spectrum. After the government collapsed and HDZ president Tomislav Karamarko resigned, early parliamentary elections were held in September. HDZ and MOST entered into a coalition again, but the new HDZ president Andrej Plenković, much more moderate than his predecessor, did not invite Hasanbegović to stay as a Minister, instead relegating him to being a member of Parliament.

More moderate policies advocated by Plenković have created tensions between the two of them from the very beginning, but they escalated in recent days after the second coalition between HDZ and MOST collapsed. During the last week’s vote on the motion of no confidence against Finance Minister Marić and subsequent election of Gordan Jandroković as Parliament Speaker, Hasanbegović was loyal to the party and voted together with all the other HDZ’s MPs. However, he criticized the position in which the party found itself after breaking up the coalition with MOST, particularly given the fact that the slim parliamentary majority now depended on several MPs whom Hasanbegović considers unacceptable.

HDZ president and Prime Minister Plenković is in a difficult position here, because the government survived the key vote last week in the Parliament with literally no MPs to spare, and he is now in danger of losing not just Hasanbegović, but also Esih, who is an independent MP elected last year on HDZ’s candidate list, and possibly also independent MP Željko Glasnović, another MP who often shares their views. Without the three of them, the government will have an even harder time trying to form a majority needed to confirm new ministers which will have to be appointed after the second round of local elections in early June.

Interesting indicator will be the results of the first round of local elections on 21 May in Zagreb, where Bruna Esih is running for mayor of Zagreb against Drago Prgomet, the official HDZ candidate supported by Plenković, as well as for the City Assembly, where Esih’s list is running against the official Plenković-supported list. If Esih receives more votes than the official party candidate, that will be a major embarrassment for the Prime Minister, who has staked his personal reputation by imposing his own selected candidate on the local party branch, which had its own preferred candidates.