Monday, 11 May 2020

Škoro and Croatian Sovereigntists Sign Coalition Agreement

ZAGREB, May 11, 2020 - Homeland Movement leader Miroslav Škoro and representatives of the Croatian Sovereigntists party signed on Monday a coalition agreement on joint participation in the coming parliamentary election.

Škoro told a press conference that after the agreement with the Bloc for Croatia his Homeland Movement had also reached an agreement with the Croatian Sovereigntists to run in the elections together.

"We are extremely pleased. We still want talks to continue so that everyone seeking change in Croatia can join this political camp," Škoro told a press conference.

"Croatia wants all of us to be together and finally offer a political alternative. The Croatian Sovereigntists will be, together with the Homeland Movement and other partners, the alternative that Croats have been looking for a long time," Hrvoje Zekanović of the Croatian Sovereigntists said.

Expressing satisfaction with the agreement, Marijan Pavliček, the leader of the Croatian Conservative Party, said that the patriotic and sovereigntist camp had been fragmented for the past 20 years and that this was the first time Croatian citizens were provided with a joint political option that would be an alternative to the left and right political elites.

Pavliček believes the newly-established coalition will be the biggest surprise in the upcoming election.

Noting that Croatia has been waiting for real political changes for a long time, Ladislav Ilčić (HRAST) underscored that real changes could not be expected to stem from the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) or the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

More news about Miroslav Škoro can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Milanović Says Is Neutral in Election but Won't "Go under a Quilt"

ZAGREB, May 9, 2020 - President Zoran Milanović said on Saturday he was completely neutral ahead of the coming parliamentary election but he would not "go under a quilt and look with a periscope at what is happening" because that was not why he was elected.

The president said he hoped the election would not undermine the pace of coming out of the epidemiological restrictions imposed because of COVID-19, and noted that for the next three to four months, after parliament was dissolved, Croatia would probably be without a government.

"I'm totally neutral. I just found out that a left coalition has been formed. I talk with both the prime minister and people from the opposition, some have expectations, but there is no bias on my part."

Milanović said he did not have the right to say what would suit him more after the election and wondered "if the president should vote in elections at all, as is the case in some countries."

He went on to say that he would not attend a commemoration for Croatian soldiers and civilians killed at the end of World War II at Bleiburg, Austria because "the Bleiburg victims don't exist as such, rather there are victims of showdowns and executions which ensued after the surrender of the Nazi army and their servants."

"Thousands of people were caught in a double bind, mostly in Tezno, Slovenia, and that's where I will lay wreaths."

The president said he objected to Bleiburg being associated with the Way of the Cross, viewing it as "an inappropriate and crude use of the sacrifice Jesus made for humankind."

Milanovic said he would not attend a commemoration organised by the Bleiburg Guard of Honour.

"That has nothing to do with honour. It's led by a man who served time in Germany from 1984 to 1991 for first degree murder. They are not people who should come near us. Neither is the man who was in front of the prime minister in Okučani, who was tried by Croatian courts for killing civilians from a basement. Although convicted, he got away with it due to an error by the state prosecutor's office," the president said.

"Once, they were people in wheelchairs who I can sympathise with. Now they are people whom the Croatian judiciary tried for war crimes, yet they push them one metre in front of the prime minister," he added.

The president said he was dissatisfied that there was no ban on commemorations of war criminals such as Vukasin Šoškočanin in Borovo Selo. "A cemetery is not a private place and you can't put just anything on a tombstone. The state can and must regulate that if it wants to. If it's scared of someone and a constant conflict suits it, then it won't."

"Those who put it there should remove that for the sake of good relations between the Croatian and Serb communities," the president added.

More election news can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Restart Coalition Says It Is Team for Defending Croatia from HDZ

ZAGREB, May 9, 2020 - Leaders of five opposition parties on Saturday presented the Restart Coalition in which they will run in the coming parliamentary election, announcing a new start for Croatia and the defence of the country against the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

The Restart Coalition comprises the Social Democratic Party (SDP) led by Davor Bernardić, the Croatian People's Party (HSS) of Krešo Beljak, the Croatian Pensioner's Party (HSU) of Silvano Hrelja, the Civil and Liberal Alliance (GLAS) headed by Anka Mrak Taritaš, and the Civil Activism Party (SNAGA) of Goran Aleksić.

"Croatia needs a restart more than ever, a new beginning on sound foundations, this time without corruption, justly, not with cronyism, with competent ones, not parasites. Our name is our programme, a complete restart of Croatia," Bernardić said at a press conference.

He said people were hopeless and that over a million lived on the brink of poverty.

"Due to numerous scandals and debts, healthcare is facing a total collapse, the education reform is non-existent, the security system is lagging, the state apparatus is overstaffed and doesn't fulfil its purpose. The situation in the judiciary has never been worse. Corruption has seeped into every pore of our society," said Bernardić.

"More than half the government had to go due to suspicion of corruption and it is still in power thanks to political corruption, to the buying of members of parliament, which has destroyed people's faith in the system and institutions," he added.

Bernardić said that when they came to power they would reduce the number of ministries, towns and municipalities as well as the inefficient state administration, and digitise the country and all public services and processes so that the state administration was as close to citizens as possible, but without corruption.

"We will fight corruption by all means, changing laws, making punishment stricter as well as reforming the judiciary, education and healthcare," he said, adding that they would release Croatia's huge potential, boosting industry and exports, relaxing the tax burden on labour and stimulating investment.

"We believe in a new policy, a policy of honesty, courage and trust, a policy and a government which works for citizens, not for itself. We don't want to just turn over a new leaf in our history but write a completely new book, building a strong country," Bernardić said, announcing a new start for Croatia with no more lies, corruption, betrayal and deceit.

He said that in the Restart Coalition they were not distributing positions but concentrating on the platform and a fundamental agreement on jointly running in the election and restarting Croatia "so that Croatia can have a shot at success and the children being born today a shot at a better life."

Bernardić said slates would be discussed when coronavirus restrictions were lifted and election rallies possible. The candidate for prime minister will be the president of the biggest coalition party and the party which wins the most votes, he added.

Beljak said Croatia had needed a new start long before the current crisis and that this crisis had brought to light all of Croatia's problems. "Our coalition has enough know-how, experience, quality and political battles behind it to be able to finally get Croatia started."

Beljak said the HDZ had brought Croatia to the brink of destruction and that it should be opposed. We are the new start, he added.

Mrak Taritaš said the coalition represented a team for the defence of Croatia from the HDZ. "When Croatia had to be pulled out of the biggest crises and abysses the HDZ threw Croatia into, we were the ones who brought our country back to the right path, the path of development, recovery and a functioning state."

She said it was no coincidence that the coalition was formed on Victory Day and Europe Day because this symbolised the Croatia they wanted. Croatia can and deserves to be a country which is not chained by the corruption and incompetence with which the incumbent government is keeping it at the bottom, she added.

Hrelja said Croatia was barely surviving today and that this did not bode for a good and bright future. His party's focus as part of the Restart Coalition will remain on the pension and healthcare systems as well as labour, he added.

Aleksić said he was confident the coalition would take responsibility for Croatia in the coming parliamentary election because it deserved to given its track record in parliament.

The coalition is talking with many county and municipal heads as well as mayors and regional parties such as the PGS and the IDS. Next week it will sign an agreement with Bjelovar-Bilogora County head Damir Bajs.

More elections news can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Election to Be Held in Second Half of July at Latest

ZAGREB, May 6, 2020 - Croatian People's Party (HNS) whip Milorad Batinić said on Wednesday that the ruling coalition would like the parliamentary election to be held in the second half of July at the latest.

"The second half of July at the latest," Batinić told reporters in Parliament House when asked when the ruling coalition would like the election to be held.

Once parliament is dissolved, the "conductor's wand" is in the President's hands and he will determine the date of the election, added Batinić.

Batinić believes that the election should be held as soon as possible and notes that his party is ready for it and will uphold the decision to dissolve the parliament.

The HNS plans to run in the election on its own but coalitions with liberal parties are possible, he said.

"I will send all liberal options and civic centre parties an invitation on behalf of the party to gather around the HNS for the election because that is the only way to establish a balance between the left and the right," Batinić said.

Commenting on a bill on the reconstruction of Zagreb, Batinić said that it was in the interest of everyone, citizens of Zagreb and surrounding counties that were affected by the March 22 earthquake.

"As far as the HNS and Minister (Predrag) Štromar are concerned, the bill is ready and we believe that... it will be forwarded to parliament either this week or next," said Batinić.

He added that the HNS had discussed the matter with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković who did not specify whether the bill would be put on the agenda before parliament was dissolved but that he believed that that was in Plenković's interest.

"We never gave the government any ultimatums. We advocate dialogue and believe that it is in the interest of the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) and the entire ruling coalition and Prime Minister Plenković for the bill to be put on the agenda as soon as possible," said Batinić.

More election news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Electoral Commission Preparing for Parliamentary Election

ZAGREB, May 5, 2020 - The State Electoral Commission (DIP) is preparing for parliamentary elections while it is not clear yet how the elections will be implemented.

DIP spokesman Slaven Hojski said that the commission in charge of parliamentary elections had begun to prepare for them as soon as the presidential election was concluded.

Our preparations include preparing a draft of compulsory instructions and forms, working on applications to be used by the commission, and so on, Hojski told Hina.

The date of the parliamentary election has still not been decided but there has been speculation that it could be held in the first half of July, on 5 or 12 July.

Earlier, Environment and Energy Minister Tomislav Ćorić confirmed that he had been appointed the Croatian Democratic Union's (HDZ) election platform coordinator, a hint that the election date could be decided soon.

Parliament Speaker Goran Jandroković, who is the HDZ secretary-general, has been appointed the coordinator of the HDZ's election campaign.

Even though the epidemiological situation in Croatia is good, there is no knowing what the situation will be like in July, what restrictive measures may be in force and what the election could look like.

"DIP will decide on procedures and polling stations and the like once the election is called, and it will do so in cooperation with epidemiological services," Hojski said.

There are no clear instructions on protective measures for thousands of people sitting in election committees either, Hojski added. However, if it proves to be necessary, the state will cover the additional costs of supplying protective equipment like masks, gloves and so on.

More election news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Plenković Says HDZ Won't Lose Voters to Škoro

ZAGREB, May 5, 2020 - Prime Minister and HDZ party leader Andrej Plenković said on Monday that his party was not afraid that it would lose voters to right-wing parties that have been gathering around Homeland Movement leader Miroslav Škoro.

Addressing reporters ahead of a session of the HDZ leadership, Plenković said that regardless of when the parliamentary elections would be held, the HDZ would win them.

Plenković would not comment on a session of the HDZ branch in Zagreb, which was expected to meet on Monday evening to discuss cooperation with Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić.

Plenković recalled that an agreement had been reached by the coalition partners in the Zagreb City Assembly to hold the next assembly session via video link.

Plenković does not believe that the latest developments signal a crisis in relations between the coalition partners in Zagreb and believes that an agreement should be reached.

HDZ City Assembly member Ivan Ćelić said after today's session of the party branch in Zagreb that City Assembly chair Drago Prgomet of the HDZ, who had announced that the session would focus on the coalition with Bandić's party, excused himself so the matter was not discussed.

The bone of contention between the HDZ and Bandić is the decision to hold the City Assembly session online, which Mayor Bandić has refused.

Prgomet said Bandić's move was an act of belittling the HDZ and the City Assembly, which was why he announced that the HDZ's cooperation with Bandić's party in Zagreb would be reconsidered.

Ćelić said that it was still not known in what format the City Assembly session would be held but that the HDZ wanted it to be held online to help prevent the spreading of the coronavirus.

Reporters asked HDZ political secretary Ante Sanader if he expected Plenković to put forward a concrete date for parliamentary elections at the party leadership's meeting today, to which Sanader said that they had not discussed the matter and that it was not on the agenda of the meeting.

Asked by reporters if the ruling majority in the national parliament had enough hands to dissolve the parliament, Sanader said that they had not discussed the matter with their coalition partners but that he was confident they would have enough hands when the time comes and that the Opposition, too, would vote in favour of dissolving the parliament.

More HDz news can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 1 May 2020

SDP to Run Together with HSS, HSU and SNAGA

ZAGREB, May 1, 2020 - The Social Democratic Party (SDP) vice president Rajko Ostojić said on Thursday the SDP was ready for the forthcoming parliamentary election, adding that it would run in a coalition with the Peasant Party (HSS), the Pensioners' Party (HSU) and the Party of People's and Civic Activism (SNAGA).

"The SDP is ready for the election, In January and February we travelled through half of the country with our programme, The SDP has its programme, its team and its coalition," Ostojić told the press after a session of the party presidency.

He said the party presidency had unanimously supported the coalition with the HSS, the HSU and SNAGA, adding that the coalition agreement would be signed Monday.

Asked to comment on HSS leader Krešo Beljak's statement that the HSS had not ruled out the possibility of running alone in the election, Ostojić said Beljak would be at the signing on Monday.

SDP presidency member and Croatian MEP Biljana Borzan said European countries had postponed elections indefinitely as they believed it was too risky to hold them during the present pandemic.

Ostojić also said that next week the SDP would send to parliament a bill against corona profiteering, adding that the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) was always leaving the same three things behind - isolation, recession and depression.

More SDP news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

HDZ Putting Own Interests Be Public Health, Says Opposition MP

ZAGREB, April 28, 2020 - The deputy leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Rajko Ostojić, on Tuesday called out the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) for putting its own interests before those of the state and citizens, accusing ministers of not making decisions, avoiding responsibility and hiding behind the national coronavirus crisis management team.

"HDZ has for the one hundredth time put its own interests before those of the state, the health of our citizens, economic health and even the interests of the European Union," Ostojić told a press conference.

"For HDZ, the election is the key to everything," he underscored and added that the same thing happened on March 15 when the internal party election was more important that the interest of the state because immediately the next day quarantine measures were introduced and not before like in neighbouring Slovenia and other countries in central Europe.

He mentioned that the key measures introduced were banning employment and public procurement.

"Yet, HDZ violated its own recommendations," Ostojić said, citing the example of the Inspector-General who should be concerned with matters related to the coronavirus yet he employed a member of his family.

Ostojić said that the ban on Sunday trading was unprecedented and that it was the result of HDZ pandering to the conservative right. He added that there was no expert or scientific proof that the ban on Sunday trading could be connected with the coronavirus.

Ostojić said that the situation in the retirement home in Split where the disease spread but no one was held to account was also unheard of and that SDP had called for the responsible person to be identified.

He recalled that Health Minister Vili Beroš had at the time very clearly said that increased temperatures and infections in the retirement home, which had gone on for about ten days, were the cause of the COVID-19 infection and underscored that if that was confirmed it should be sufficient reason for someone's resignation.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Plenković: Elections When Epidemiological Circumstances Allow

ZAGREB, April 28, 2020 - Prime Minster and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Andrej Plenković said on Monday that the parliamentary elections would be held when epidemiological circumstances allow, adding that the party's bodies had not discussed the election in detail yet.

Our political objective is to have political stability which is made possible thanks to reforms, Plenković told the press ahead of a meeting of the HDZ leadership in Zagreb.

We have ensured that for the country. With regard to our top priorities, Croatia is much better now than it was in 2016. Our desire is for the election to be held in this election year when epidemiological circumstances allow that. Today is the first day of gradual lifting of restrictive measures and we will make the decision when the election can be in line with political assessments; however, we have not discussed that in HDZ's bodies, Plenković explained.

We are in an election year, regardless of the fact if they are held this June, July or September, these are small nuances, he added.

The premier underscored that the most important thing is to beat the coronavirus and for the country to be economically reactivated efficiently as soon as possible.

He believes that the date of the election is less important than, as he said, the circumstances in which everyone will have an equal opportunity for electioneering and for articulating their ideas and platforms.

Plenković added that he had not discussed the election with President Zoran Milanović, recalling that the parliamentary majority will decide when and on what date to dissolve the current parliament.

After the dissolution, in accordance with the Constitution the president has 30 to 60 days to decide which of the four Sundays in theory it is possible to hold the election.

Asked whether he thinks that the opposition will agree to dissolve the parliament, Plenković said that the opposition had until now acted fairly courageously but now they seem to be a little less courageous.

Referring to the gradual easing of restrictive measures because of the epidemic, Plenković said that he was pleased with the way Croatia managed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"The increase in the number of infections at a slower pace compared with other countries, a small number of our citizens who unfortunately died, prove that the government's measures have brought results. The thing that is important is that we chose health and the lives of our citizens," he underscored.

He added that the presented economic and social measures were accepted exceptionally well and they are a strong support provided by the state for the economy, private sector, employees and the private sector.

Plenković denied that the National Civil Protection Authority was politicised and dismissed claims that this crisis management team had turned into an election campaign headquarters.

He recalled that the COVID-19 crisis management team was appointed by the government and that it consists of people who represent government departments and who have a political term that the government assigned them.

"The Opposition obviously has a lot of reason to be unhappy. I can understand that. This same Opposition has tried to bring down the government several times. They launched motions for no confidence votes. Not one month went by without a similar motion. Now they can see how we are handling essential challenges and that is making them a little unsatisfied," said Plenković.

More election news can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

HDZ Planning Parliamentary Elections for July 5?

ZAGREB, April 25, 2020 - Parliamentary elections are likely to be held on July 5, provided that the epidemiological situation is good, a source from the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party has told Jutarnji List newspaper.

The date could be shifted for a week, depending on developments with the coronavirus epidemic, but the date of July 5 is currently most frequently mentioned within the party, the newspaper said on Saturday.

"There's nothing to wait for," a high-ranking member of the party's leadership told Jutarnji List, confirming that the elections were possible in early July.

The source said that the HDZ-led government is managing the coronavirus crisis well and the party's rating is increasing, while the epidemic might return in the autumn, so the ideal time for elections is July.

President Zoran Milanović has intentionally raised ideological issues, which is playing into the hands of former presidential candidate Miroslav Škoro and his Homeland Movement. The HDZ's rating is growing and Škoro's is falling, and each vote taken from the HDZ benefits the strongest opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP), the source said.

The government has now announced relaxation measures. This is an election year, and if the epidemiological situation remains good, there is nothing to wait for. Because if a new wave of the epidemic comes in the autumn, elections will not be possible and the question is when they will be held. There is also a possibility of a constitutional crisis, the unnamed HDZ official said, adding that it is only logical that elections should be held as soon as possible.

More HDZ news can be found in the Politics section.

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