SDP Proposes New Referendum Rules

By 21 May 2018

ZAGREB, May 21, 2018 - Croatia's strongest opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), prompted by signature-gathering drives for two referendums, announced on Monday it was launching an initiative to change the constitution in order to define the referendum issue more precisely.

SDP leader Davor Bernardić told a press conference that since 2013 the referendum initiatives had been aimed at reducing and restricting fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution. "Today we are faced with plans for a referendum to rescind the ratification of the Istanbul Convention and a referendum to restrict the rights of the representatives of ethnic minorities in the Croatian parliament," he said, noting that attempts were being made "under the guise of alleged democracy to discriminate and restrict constitutional freedoms."

"The sole purpose of this carefully planned scenario is to discriminate against vulnerable groups in society," he added.

Bernardić said that the referendum initiative against the Istanbul Convention had been launched by radical right-wing forces to nullify the ratification of a convention aimed at preventing violence against women, and "to settle accounts with the LGBT community and all other people who, based on their gender orientation, do not share their conservative view of marriage."

"The other absurd initiative, which was launched at the same time by this same group, aims to restrict the constitutional rights of the ethnic minorities, to elect and be elected into the Croatian parliament," the SDP leader said.

Bernardić called on citizens not to give their signatures for causes that would move Croatia away from modern Europe.

The SDP is proposing that a minimum of 200,000 signatures should be required for calling a referendum, so that referendums can be called more frequently and more effectively. The present requirement is that signatures of at least 10 percent of the electorate, which is about 370,000, need to be gathered to call a referendum.

Citing Slovenia's model, the SDP is proposing that referendums should not be allowed on such issues as reducing fundamental civil rights and freedoms, taxation and the state budget, meeting commitments under international treaties, defence and national security, and elections and appointments which fall within parliament's remit.

The SDP called on all MPs to sign their initiative this week so it could be introduced into parliament.