HNS Changes Mind on Entering into Coalition with HDZ

By 8 June 2017

On Wednesday evening, the HNS Main Committee decided that it would reject the decision made by the party Presidency on Tuesday and enter into a coalition with HDZ.

Although on Tuesday it seemed that HDZ would not be able to successfully conclude a coalition reshuffle and find a new ruling majority in the Parliament, after ejecting MOST from the coalition more than a month ago, Wednesday changed everything. While on Tuesday evening the HNS Presidency decided not to enter into a coalition, which caused party president Ivan Vrdoljak to resign, the party’s Main Committee, a much larger body, decided to reject that decision and enter into coalition negotiations with HDZ.

HNS has 9 MPs in the Parliament, but four of them have announced they will not abide by the party’s decision and would still vote against the government, which is expected to lead to their expulsion from the party. The four MPs are Goran Beus Richembergh, Nada Turina, Anka Mrak Taritaš and Vesna Pusić, former Foreign Minister, and long-time party President. They said they were shocked and saddened by the party’s decision. The other five MPs are expected to support the new government.

According to media reports, out of 107 members of the Main Committee present at the meeting, only 20 were against the coalition with HDZ, while nine abstained from voting. Despite the change of opinion, former party president Vrdoljak said he would still retire from politics and withdraw from the Parliament, where he is still an MP.

The chief proponent of the deal with HDZ was Predrag Štromar, Vrdoljak’s deputy and now acting party President, who explained the party’s change of mind to reporters. “The Main Committee did not accept the Presidency's decision. We will start negotiations with HDZ based on the platform that we have put forward. After talking with them, we will know a lot more. This does not mean that the outcome of negotiations will be positive or that a coalition is inevitable. This is the first step on our side. We have proposed three ministers for the new government. Blaženka Divjak would be the Minister of Education and Science, which means that current Education Minister Barišić would have to leave the government. Ranko Marijan would be the Minister of Justice, and I would be the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Construction,” said Štromar after the vote.

The decision is being criticised and referred to as a betrayal of HNS’s voters, since the party went into the last elections as part of a left-wing coalition with SDP, and has now decided to support the centre-right HDZ government. “We have not cheated our voters. We want what is good for Croatia, we want an open society. Voters will realise that. We want curricular reforms to continue,” said Štromar after the vote.

Despite numerous rumors that HNS was in secret negotiations with HDZ during the last month and a half, ever since MOST was ejected from the government, party leaders repeatedly said they would never enter into a coalition with HDZ. However, as soon as local elections were over, as expected, they publicly changed their mind. Their explanation is that they are doing it for the good of the country and not for their personal benefit and positions in government, nor, in their own words, are they doing it for state-owned companies, which they are now sure to gain.

As for the future, political analysts believe that this is the end of HNS as an important political party since it 's hard to see who might vote for them at the next elections. Left-leaning voters will certainly not allow being cheated once again, while right-wing voters would never even consider voting for HNS. It is likely that HNS will now follow the destiny of another liberal party, HSLS, which used to be a main opposition party in Croatia and was once in government with SDP. However, after entering into a coalition with HDZ, it disappeared from the political scene and now exists with only one MP, given to it by HDZ as a consolation price for previous services provided.

It remains to be seen what the reaction of HDZ’s right-wing faction will be, since, until now, HNS has been considered to be the complete opposite of HDZ. This might improve the popularity of the new right-wing party being founded by two of HDZ’s former MPs, Zlatko Hasanbegović and Bruna Esih, who will probably use this latest turn of events to accuse HDZ of betraying its core values.