Ivan Vrdoljak Quits all Functions in HNS, Sends HDZ into Disarray

By 7 June 2017

Despite announcements from HDZ which all but confirmed the pending coalition of HDZ and HNS, the Croatian People’s Party (HNS) President Ivan Vrdoljak quit all functions on Tuesday.

For HDZ members, last night’s news from HNS was a cold shower. Most believed the estimates of the party leadership, that the cooperation with HNS was a done deal and that Ivan Vrdoljak had the support of his party leadership to enter into a coalition with HDZ. And while only a few hours before Vrdoljak made his announcement HDZ members praised and supported their leaders to join forces with HNS, a large disappointment came, Jutarnji List reported on June 7, 2017.

“Why did we need to pompously announce we are ready to cooperate with them minutes before we were rejected. This is the second mistake in a row, after the one with the Croatian Peasants’ Party, when Beljak sternly refused us,” said last night an HDZ presidency member.

Many HDZ members were shocked. “Just last night we heard unofficially from our leaders that more than 8 HNS presidency members are in favour of a coalition with us, and it turned out that none of them are, except Vrdoljak,” said a respected HDZ member, who estimated that any day someone would demand responsibility in HDZ from party leader Andrej Plenković. “Everything is beginning to seem like the story with Karamarko. Vrdoljak simply should not have been trusted, Plenković turned out to be naïve.”

Although HDZ members stated last night they are certain in victory at the elections which now cannot be avoided, everyone estimates that it will be difficult to expect a much better score than the one obtained at the last election. One Presidency member warned that HDZ will face the elections they wanted to avoid at any cost. “Yesterday we could count on Silvano Hrelja, and now it is clear we don’t have his vote.”

Several Presidency members confirmed that their leadership did not speak to Bruna Esih and Zlatko Hasanbegović, convinced their votes will not be needed. “Their conditions in this situation will be much more demanding. After the win in the local elections, this is a tough defeat for HDZ,” said a member of the Presidency resolutely.

Ivan Vrdoljak, the former HNS chief who stepped down from all party functions on Tuesday, was born in Osijek in 1972. He entered politics in 2000 as an HNS member. He is the former Osijek Mayor, elected to Parliament in 2011 on the list of the HNS-SDP-IDS-HSU coalition and entered the government, first as Construction Minister and then as Economy Minister in 2012.

He was re-elected to Parliament in 2015. He was elected as HNS President in 2016 as the only candidate. He was re-elected to Parliament again in 2016.

Several weeks ago rumours of an HDZ and HNS coalition began after the opposition initiative to remove Finance Minister Marić failed in Parliament. Although Vrdoljak repeatedly claimed that he will not take part in any realignment, after the second round of local elections in 2017, he admitted speaking to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

Media reports cited that he was offered the position of Deputy PM and several ministries for HNS. He justified his meetings with Plenković with the desire to secure better education for all Croatian children, confirming indirectly that he was offered the science and education sector.

Although there was information on Tuesday that Vrdoljak had HNS support to enter into a coalition with HDZ, Plenković himself confirmed he desires such a pact, but in the end, a large about-face took place.

“I decided to propose not to align with HDZ and announced I am resigning from all political functions,” said a visibly tired Ivan Vrdoljak to reporters outside the HNS offices.

“It was evident the party would split, I did not want to allow that, deciding to propose to avoid joining the HDZ government and resigning. I had an honest intention to drag Croatia out of political rows, but not at the price of splitting the party. I am resigning from all party functions,” said Vrdoljak.