President Denies that Meeting with Conservative Activist Was “Secret”

By 3 June 2018

ZAGREB, June 3, 2018 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović repeated on Sunday that she did not want to comment on the content of the question of a recently completed campaign for a referendum to change the election law, but that she believed the will of the people should be respected, adding that her meeting with Željka Markić, leader of the conservative “In the Name of the Family” civic group, unofficially one of the organisers of one of the two recent referendum campaigns, was not a secret meeting.

"That referendum campaign evidently sends a message that people are dissatisfied with political structures, which should make us all think about our attitude to voters. As regards the constitutionality of that referendum question, only the Constitutional Court can decide about it, without any political pressure. I have said that I do not interfere in the matter of referendums because the Venice Commission recommends that senior office-holders stay away from civic initiatives," Grabar-Kitarović told reporter after meeting local officials in Beli Manastir, in Osijek-Baranja County.

She dismissed claims that her meeting with Markić was a secret meeting. No, it was not a secret meeting, the president said, adding that she and Markić met before the campaign for a referendum to change the election law started. "I wanted to hear from Mrs Markić what her goals were, she said that the question concerning the election law would be separated from the question concerning minority representation. We did not go public with that because I did not want to interfere in the signature-collection procedure and I believe that my decision was fair and correct," Grabar-Kitarović said.

"As you have seen, a sufficient number of signatures has been collected but since we are talking about constitutionality, I think that decisions by some mayors to ban the collection of signatures for the referendum should also be discussed, because they, too, restrict civil liberties," added the president.

That was their private decision, she said when asked to comment on reports that four of her advisors had signed the referendum petition. Grabar-Kitarović's interior policy advisor Mate Radeljić confirmed having signed the referendum question on changes to the election law, noting that there was nothing disputable or bad about that question. He said that he had not signed questions for a referendum to revoke the ratification of the Istanbul Convention and on minority representation in the parliament. If a referendum on changes to the election law is held, I believe that Croatia will no longer be the same, said Radeljić.