Saturday, 4 July 2020

Croatia Parliamentary Election: Polling Stations Open in Australia, China, Japan

ZAGREB, July 4, 2020 - Croatia's tenth parliamentary election began at 11 p.m. on Friday Croatian time as polling stations opened in three Australian cities, State Electoral Commission vice president Damir Kontrec said.

Polling stations opened in Canberra, Sydney, and Melbourne, while the one at the Croatian Consulate in Perth opened at 1 a.m. Croatian time on Saturday, Kontrec said, adding that 2,800 voters had registered to vote in Australia.

The one polling station in Beijing opened at the same time as in Perth, while the one at the Croatian Embassy in Tokyo opened at midnight on Friday.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, voting will take place at 42 more countries over Saturday and Sunday, in cities with Croatian diplomatic and consular missions where Croatian citizens who do not reside in Croatia will elect three of the 151 members of parliament.

There are 112 polling stations abroad, of which 45 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 11 in Germany, four in the US, three in Italy, and two in Serbia, Montenegro, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland and Canada each.

The last polling station to open will be in Los Angeles at 4 p.m. on Saturday Croatian time.

Almost 185,000 Croatians abroad have registered to vote in the election, the most in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina (50,786). 

Friday, 3 July 2020

DIP: People Infected with COVID-19 Allowed to Vote by Proxy

ZAGREB, July 3, 2020 - The Electoral Commission (DIP) said on Friday that people infected with the novel coronavirus would be allowed to vote by proxy in Sunday's parliamentary election.

"Anyone who has been diagnosed with coronavirus infection will be able to vote with the help of another person of their confidence, who will fill in the ballot as instructed by the infected person," DIP spokesman Slaven Hojski told a press conference after the Constitutional Court said that DIP had a duty to ensure for infected people to be able to exercise their right to vote.

Hojski explained that after a call from a COVID positive person, a member of the polling committee will come in front of their house or apartment, without coming into direct contact with the infected person. The person of confidence will then fill in the ballot, put it in an envelope, and return it to the member of the polling committee outside the apartment.

"The infected person must not come into direct contact either with the member of the polling committee or with the ballot," DIP vice-president Ana Lovrin stressed.

The person of confidence is usually a member of the infected person's household.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Skoro: HDZ, SDP Agree About Their Interests

ZAGREB, July 3, 2020 - Homeland Movement leader Miroslav Skoro accused the HDZ and the SDP on Friday of agreeing about their interests, although they were supposed to be political opponents, for example, that it was not necessary to amend the election law or revoke their perks.

Speaking at the final campaign press conference, Skoro said he was not worried about the election results because he believed in a better tomorrow, but that he was worried about a deep rift in Croatian society given that 50% of eligible citizens did not wish to vote.

"We are offering this state the possibility to make a move with good far-reaching consequences. They are offering another move with bad consequences."

Skoro said he feared what would happen after Sunday's election because the epidemiological situation was not good. "The whole world is closing again, only we are opening and exposing ourselves in the interest of one man and two parties, Andrej Plenkovic, in the interest of the HDZ and the SDP."

Plenkovic and Bernardic can't be prime ministers

Asked if he was willing to sit down on Monday and talk about the next government, Skoro said the Homeland Movement was willing to talk with anyone who wished Croatia well. He added, however, that neither HDZ president Plenkovic nor SDP president Davor Bernardic could be a prime minister.

Skoro said he did not think a new election would be called because there were enough smart and wise people who would recognise the need to remove Plenkovic and Bernardic.

Friday, 3 July 2020

GONG Asks Constitutional Court To Oversee Legality of Election

ZAGREB, July 3, 2020 - The GONG election-monitoring NGO asked the Constitutional Court on Friday to oversee the constitutionality and legality of Sunday's parliamentary election "because persons infected with coronavirus are being deprived of the right to vote."

GONG submitted its request together with signatures by 179 citizens.

The state has the duty to find a way so that voters with coronavirus vote by prescribing additional epidemiological measures for contact with them on election day, similarly to the measures prescribed for self-isolating voters, GONG said in an explanation of its request.

In a press release, GONG recalled that it had warned in time about the need to introduce postal voting due to coronavirus, "but there has been no political will."

Now, GONG said, we have a situation in which some voters are deprived of the constitutional right to vote. "Regardless of the number of those infected, regardless of the attempt to downplay the problem... the right to vote does is not taken away."

GONG said earlier that citizens, notably seniors and those in self-isolation, "must not be forced to falsely choose between health protection and voting rights" and that it was up to the government to hold the election in a way that would not endanger either.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Election Silence Begins at Midnight

ZAGREB, July 3, 2020 - A two-day election silence begins at midnight on Friday and ends at 7 p.m. on Sunday, the day of the parliamentary election.

Over the next two days, any campaigning or publication of election result estimates, candidates' photos, statements, or interviews is prohibited. 

Over the past two weeks, voters have had the chance to become acquainted with almost 2,700 candidates on 192 lists. The number of lists per constituency ranges from 13 in the fifth to 22 in the seventh.

Women make up 41% of the candidates and candidates are 48 years old on average.

There are 17 candidates in constituency no. 12, where ethnic minorities elect eight members of parliament, and it is already known that the Hungarian and Italian minorities will again be represented by Robert Jankovics and Furio Radin respectively.

The 151 MPs are elected by secret ballot to a four-year term. In the ten constituencies in Croatia, 14 are elected per each constituency, the diaspora elects three, and ethnic minorities eight.

Because of the coronavirus epidemic and the protection measures in force, the July 5 election will be one of the most challenging elections since Croatia gained independence.

The election will be carried out by 75,000 people, voting will take place at 7,000 polling stations in Croatia and abroad, and it will be watched by 8,700 observers.

There are 3.860 million eligible voters. 

Thursday, 2 July 2020

RESTART Reps: All Eligible Voters Should Be Enabled to Vote

ZAGREB, July 2, 2020 - Social Democratic Party leader Davor Bernardic who heads the RESTART coalition for the parliamentary election, said on Thursday that he expects the Constitutional Court's opinion on the ban on people infected with coronavirus from voting.

"I expect it (the court) to give its opinion in line with the Constitution and that is that all citizens of the Republic of Croatia have to be enabled to exercise their right to vote. That is the only fair and normal thing. The State Electoral Commission (DIP) has to secure those conditions. DIP has to specify the conditions that will apply to people in self-isolation," Bernardic told a press conference.

He called on everyone to consume their right guaranteed by the Constitution. It certainly is not good that people who are infected could come to polling stations, he underscored, however, DIP has to ensure that they can vote.

"That is the point. DIP has to make it possible for every eligible Croatian citizen to vote. That is in line with the Constitution," he said and added that all citizens need to be equal before the law and the Constitution.

Commenting on DIP's recommendations and the regularity of the election, Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) leader Kreso Beljak claimed that nobody had the right to strip citizens of their right to vote which is guaranteed in the Constitution.

"Why was the election called, when they knew what the situation was? That was the risk HDZ took and now they would like to justify that and bar individuals from voting. No, they cannot ban them. They could have held the election when the pandemic was over. They could have done anything. But they hoped to profit from the coronavirus. Well they won't," he said.

Asked whether it was responsible to call people who are infected with coronavirus to go to the polls, Beljak said that the responsibility did not lie with him or anyone in the Opposition who were against the election at this time but that that was the responsibility of those who insisted that the election be held at the height of the coronavirus epidemic and now want to ban people from voting.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

DIP: Restriction on Voting for Coronavirus-Positive Patients Protects Public Health

ZAGREB, July 2, 2020 - The Electoral Commission (DIP) said on Thursday that the restriction on voting for people infected with the coronavirus was imposed under the law and served the legitimate purpose of protecting public health from an infectious disease. 

"The restriction is appropriate to achieving this goal, and the Electoral Commission's opinion is that it is also necessary," DIP said in a response to GONG, a non-governmental election monitoring organisation that questioned its decision that voters infected with the novel COVID-19 coronavirus would not be allowed to vote in the July 5 parliamentary election.

"Any other, more lenient measure to achieve this goal would put the citizens' health at risk. In this case, we do not think that one can speak of a lower or higher level of damage to the citizens," the Electoral Commission said.

GONG had asked DIP to explain how its decision complied with fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the Convention on Human Rights.

"Fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the Convention may be restricted, but under strict conditions, as follows: a restriction must be explicit and clearly defined by law; it must serve a legitimate purpose; it must be appropriate and necessary for achieving such purpose; and there must not be any other more lenient measures in place, with a lower level of damage to the citizens, to achieve this purpose," GONG said.

Citing the law on protecting public health from infectious diseases, DIP said that voters diagnosed with COVID-19 would not be able to vote because they were ordered to self-isolate, which means that they are not allowed to come into contact with other persons, including members of polling committees.  It said that face masks and protective gloves could not provide sufficient protection for members of polling committees. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

DIP Partially Amends COVID Instructions for Election

ZAGREB, July 1, 2020 - The State Electoral Commission (DIP) on Wednesday partially amended recommendations concerning the arrival of eligible voters at polling stations for the July 5 parliamentary elections in the event that they have a high body temperature.

The recommendations have been made for the purpose of preventing the spread of the coronavirus infection.

DIP thus recommends that on Sunday morning eligible voters measure their body temperature and in the event that it is higher than 37.2°C and if they also have respiratory symptoms characteristic for the COVID-19 disease, they are supposed to telephone their doctors.

Under the amended recommendations, voters diagnosed with COVID-19 who are therefore isolated cannot vote during the elections as they are placed in isolation as a measure stipulated by Article 2 of the law on the protection of the population against infectious diseases, which bars infected persons from making physical contact with other persons, including polling committees' members. This means that under the amended instructions the ban on turning up at the polling stations or voting at home refers explicitly to active COVID-19 cases.

Other persons with elevated body temperatures that can be accompanied by other symptoms typical for the infection with coronavirus are now advised to telephone their doctors. The amended instructions do not explicitly mention that they are banned from turning up at polling stations to vote in the election or from arranging with polling committees a meeting at their home to vote there.

DIP explains that it has amended the instruction following various interpretations of its previous recommendations.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Court Asks Electoral Commission To Explain Voting Ban For Persons With Coronavirus

ZAGREB, July 1, 2020 - The Constitutional Court has requested the State Electoral Commission (DIP) to explain within 24 hours its voting ban for persons infected with coronavirus as part of the oversight of the constitutionality and legality of elections, Court president Miroslav Separovic told Hina on Wednesday.

After the Commission's explanation, the Court will make a decision on the Commission's conclusion that infected persons cannot vote at home in the July 5 parliamentary election, unlike voters who will be in self-isolation that day and who also pose a health risk, Separovic said.

A number of constitution experts, politicians, and NGOs have warned that the Electoral Commission's exclusion of persons with coronavirus from voting restricts unconstitutionally and disproportionately the suffrage rights, but the Commission sticks by its position, citing health protection.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

SDP Leader Says DIP's Instructions Scandalous

ZAGREB, July 1, 2020 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernardic said on Wednesday that instructions by the State Electoral Commission (DIP) on voting on election day in the context of the coronavirus pandemic were scandalous, calling on the government to enable all voters to go to the polls.

"Should it happen that some citizens are not enabled to vote, elections would be irregular. The government wanted elections, they made the decision and now they have to enable all citizens to participate in the elections in line with the Constitution," Bernardic said.

He called DIP's instructions scandalous because he believes that DIP is not authorised to ban people with a high temperature to vote.

"Have they made sure those people can exercise their right somehow, that is what this is about," he warned.

Bernardic stressed that a government that was unable to make it possible for all citizens to go to the polls was incapable of implementing elections or running the country.

The government has opened the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina as it counted on the votes of ethnic Croats crossing the border, Bernardic said, noting that Bosnia and Herzegovina were among European countries with the highest rates of new cases of COVID-19.

Commenting on the latest claims by Homeland Movement leader Miroslav Skoro that neither Andrej Plenkovic nor Bernardic could be prime minister, Bernardic said that Skoro was trying to form a coalition with the HDZ.

"He is hoping for a coalition with the HDZ and offering the prime minister the post of foreign minister. In the current situation, the message is very clear - a vote for Skoro is a vote for the HDZ and vice versa," said Bernardic.

He said his party's approval ratings were positive and that all surveys predicted victory for the SDP-led RESTART coalition.

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