Appointments in Plitvice Lakes National Park Cause Turmoil in Ruling Party

By 4 January 2018

The Head of HDZ in Lika-Senj County resigns in protest.

Darko Milinović, one of the most influential members of HDZ, has resigned as head of the party in Lika-Senj County. He submitted his resignation at the end of a session of the HDZ County Committee, after HDZ’s Environmental Protection Minister Tomislav Ćorić appointed Tomislav Kovačević as the new director of Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is located in the Lika-Senj County, instead of a candidate proposed by Milinović, reports Index.hr on January 4, 2018.

Milinović said that Minister Ćorić had offended HDZ members when he acted against the will of local party members and called on Kovačević to step down and resign. “We have been winning all elections for the last twenty years. Ten thousand HDZ members and county residents expect me to fight for their interests,” Milinović said, adding that apparently people from his county cannot become directors of Plitvice Lakes. Milinović said that his county would not be run from Zagreb.

“When SDP was in power, they appointed their members, and that was fine,” Milinović continued. “We are acceptable when it comes to winning votes, but now, when it comes to the opinion of the local HDZ, Minister Ćorić says we aren't full citizens, and he doesn't want to listen to us,” Milinović said, adding that he wasn't the only one who has resigned. He claimed that all chairmen of municipal and town party branches had also submitted their resignations.

“Why are our five candidates not acceptable?” asked Milinović, who held the press conference at HDZ offices in Gospić, adding that this was a message that the people of Lika aren't competent, nor do they have an education and that they should leave Croatia. “This is not a rebellion against Prime Minister and party president Andrej Plenković, but against Minister Ćorić. We've come to a point where there is no turning back,” said Milinović, adding that he expected support from party chief Plenković. “I will not allow quasi-members of HDZ to demean us,” concluded Milinović.

Commenting on the dramatic events, Minister of Environmental Protection and Energy Tomislav Ćorić said that Kovačević was selected by an expert commission of his Ministry.

Other ministers said that the conflict would not negatively affect the situation within HDZ. Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević noted that HDZ was united and that minor problems would be overcome. Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić noted only that Milinović was an excellent county prefect. Health Minister Milan Kujundžić said that best people should be chosen for jobs. Asked whether this was a blow to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Kujundžić replied that he did not believe that anything serious was happening and that there would be no major conflict in HDZ.

Milinović is considered a member of the more conservative faction within HDZ. Lately, there have been rumours that party president Andrej Plenković does not control the situation within the party and that he could become a target for the party’s right-wing faction.