Friday, 24 April 2020

Public Health Has Priority over Parliamentary Elections

ZAGREB, April 24, 2020 - Members of both the ruling majority and the Opposition said on Friday, in a comment on media speculation that parliamentary elections could be held in the summer, that elections should be held when the epidemiological situation became favourable, to avoid jeopardising public health.

Parliament Speaker and HDZ secretary-general Gordan Jandroković told a news conference the Opposition was insisting on the topic of elections in an attempt to depict the HDZ as trying to fish in troubled waters.

"Elections will certainly be held by their constitutional deadline but at this moment we are preoccupied with the fight for the health and lives of our citizens, and we also care about their safety," said Jandroković, stressing that as long as the situation was as it was, elections would not be organised but that the constitutional deadline to hold them by mid-December would be respected.

Jandroković said that the plan was to hold the elections by their constitutional deadline if there was no significant change in public health but he added that no one could guarantee anything.

Elections would not be held by their constitutional deadline only in the event of a major health crisis, but I doubt that will happen, he said.

Asked if holding elections during the summer was an option, as speculated by some media, Jandroković said there had been no discussion about any deadlines in the HDZ, as the current situation did not allow any plans.

He noted that 47 countries had postponed different types of elections over the coronavirus crisis.

As for electronic voting and postal ballot, the HDZ is not considering it for the time being, he said.

Opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) whip Arsen Bauk said that there were two conditions for holding elections - the right to public assembly and freedom of movement. Without that, elections would not be regular, he said.

"Once those conditions are met, the SDP will be ready for elections," he said.

Should it be impossible to meet those conditions, the Constitution provides for such situations and that option would then be activated, said Bauk.

The SDP is against electronic and postal voting because it would enhance the diaspora's influence on the election outcome and one would also not be able to prevent possible abuse, said Bauk.

Opposition Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) leader Krešo Beljak said that elections should be held as soon as the conditions were created. Beljak believes electronic voting would open a Pandora's box, noting that he would not trust the result of those elections.

Electioneering is impossible in the current situation and the question of legitimacy of such elections would arise, he said, calling for a consensus on the matter and noting that public health should be the main priority.

If the ruling majority decides to hold elections in the summer, that will mean that they want to profit from the crisis, Beljak said, adding that holding elections now would suit the HDZ as it believed that it would score better results thanks to the popularity of the team managing the coronavirus crisis and the new health minister.

MOST party leader Bozo Petrov said the HDZ was calculating with whether to go to the polls or not, the reason being that it is afraid that in two to three months' time, problems caused by the coronavirus epidemic as well as the government's belated response to it would become obvious.

Petrov again called for a budget revision and for the introduction of electronic and postal voting.

GLAS leader Anka Mrak-Taritaš said the minimum standards for elections were free movement and the possibility of public assembly.

If life is normalised to a certain degree, it would be much more appropriate to hold the elections in the autumn, she said, adding that electronic and postal voting is very good but that it would not be possible to organise it in the current situation.

Milorad Batinić, whip of the Croatian People's Party (HNS), a junior partner in the HDZ-led coalition, said that the election date depended on the epidemiological situation.

Should it not be possible to hold elections due to public health reasons, there are constitutional provisions that regulate how and when they can be held, he said, adding that the idea of electronic and postal voting was acceptable to his party.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Grabar-Kitarović Spent 9.57 Million Kuna on Presidential Campaign, Milanović 3.75 Million

ZAGREB, February 5, 2020 - Outgoing President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović spent 9.57 million kuna on her presidential campaign, while President-elect Zoran Milanović spent 3.75 million kuna, their campaign financing reports show.

Milanović ran a deficit of one million kuna; he had received 1.28 million kuna from his Social Democratic Party (SDP) and 1.44 million kuna in donations. However, under a government decision, he is entitled to 1.2 million kuna to cover his campaign costs. Milanović spent most of the money on advertising - slightly over 2 million kuna.

Grabar-Kitarović, the candidate of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), spent 9.57 million kuna on her campaign, almost reaching the maximum amount she was allowed to spend under the law.

Under the law on the financing of political activities, election campaigns and referendums, the maximum amount a candidate may spend is 8 million kuna, or 9.6 million kuna if they make it into a second round of voting.

Grabar-Kitarović spent most of the money on advertising - 4.78 million kuna. She received nearly 7 million kuna from the HDZ and about 2.6 million from donors.

The HDZ candidate spent more on her campaign this year than five years ago when she had spent 8.13 million kuna.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

3.1 Million Kuna to Be Given to 3 Presidential Candidates for Campaign Costs

ZAGREB, January 21, 2020 - A total of HRK 3.1 million could be set aside from the state budget to compensate for campaign-related expenses of the top three of the eleven candidates in the recent presidential election - Zoran Milanović (SDP), Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović (HDZ) and Miroslav Škoro (independent).

Milanović can expect 1.2 million kuna for his campaigning in both rounds of the election while Grabar-Kitarović 1.08 million kuna and Škoro could receive a total of 827,000 kuna for his electioneering in the first round of the campaign.

If the State Electoral Commission (DIP) does not find anything contentious in their finances during the campaign, the three candidates can expect a refund by mid March.

According to a government decision, those candidates who won at least 10% of the vote in the first round of the presidential election are eligible for compensation of their electioneering costs and the top three of the eleven candidates that ran in the first round on 22 December thus qualify for compensation.

Milanović, the winner of the first round, is entitled to a million kuna plus 200,000 kuna, as a fifth of a million kuna for his victory of the second round.

The amount of compensation for the other two candidates – Grabar-Kitarović and Škoro – is in proportion with the number of ballots they won.

That amount is then increased by 20% for those candidates who make it to the second round which means that in the end Milanović is eligible for 1.20 million kuna and Grabar-Kitarović for 1.08 million kuna.

Milanović and Grabar-Kitarović have to submit a financial report of how much they actually spent on electioneering by February 4.

The other nine candidates who did not enter the second round are required to submit their financial reports to DIP by midnight Tuesday. So far two candidates have already submitted their reports: Mislav Kolakušić (independent) and Katarina Peović who was supported by the Workers' Front (RF) and Socialist Labour Party (SRP).

Kolakušić reported that he spent a mere 24 kuna of his own money for his campaign.

Peović reported that she ended in the green by about 15,000 kuna. She received a total of 120,000 kuna, of which 94,000 kuna was from the two parties supporting her candidacy and an additional 26,000 kuna from private donors while she spent 104,000 kuna on electioneering.

The majority of her costs went for advertising on social media networks (30,000 kuna), radio ads (24,500 kuna) and official trips (12,500 kuna).

How much the remaining seven candidates, Nedjeljko Babić (HSSKSC), Anto Đapić (RiGHT)), Ivan Pernar (SIP) and independent candidates Dario Juričan, Dean Kovač, Dalija Orešković and Miroslav Škoro spent on their campaigns will be made known on Wednesday.

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

HSLS Leader for Forming Liberal Bloc for Parliamentary Election

ZAGREB, January 11, 2020 - Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) president Dario Hrebak on Saturday called on centre parties to unite for the next parliamentary election, saying the HSLS and several liberal centre parties shared a similar political agenda.

"Fighting corruption, increasing transparency, introducing digitisation. That's the political agenda the HSLS shares with... Pametno, Start and Lipa," he told reporters ahead of an HSLS Presidency meeting.

Hrebak said the forming of a coalition for the coming parliamentary election would depend solely on the support other parties showed his party's transparency project, such as the one in Bjelovar.

Asked if he had already contacted those parties, he said intensive talks were under way and that his party was open to collaboration with any political party.

Hrebak said the transparency project in Bjelovar, of which he is the mayor, would be the HSLS trademark and that its message was that citizens had the right to know how their money was spent on the local as well as the state level.

He went on to say that big parties like the HDZ and the SDP had done less about corruption over the past 30 years than the HSLS in Bjelovar over the past year.

He said they "are not the solution, they are the problem. They can't successfully fight against corruption."

Hrebak said corruption must be dealt with and that what was going on in Zagreb must stop, adding that the ruling HDZ's biggest mistake was to cooperate with Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić.

He said the HSLS, which has one MP thanks to a coalition with the HDZ, would no longer unreservedly support anyone. "It's no secret we support the ruling party, but it's no secret either that we are bothered that (Bandić's MPs) still rule in the Croatian parliament."

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Monday, 6 January 2020

US Embassy, European Council President Congratulate President-Elect Milanović

ZAGREB, January 6, 2020 - The US Embassy in Zagreb on Monday congratulated Zoran Milanović on winning Sunday's presidential election, saying Croatia was a US ally and friend and that it was looking forward to a continued partnership during his term.

"Croatia is a steadfast friend and ally of the United States, and we draw strength from our shared values and commitment to transatlantic security, economic cooperation, and energy diversification. We fully support Croatia’s presidency of the Council of the European Union and its commitment to Southeast Europe’s Euro-Atlantic future. We are grateful for the last five years of close and productive collaboration with President (Kolinda) Grabar-Kitarović and look forward to a continued partnership throughout President-elect Milanović’s term," the embassy said in a press release.

On Sunday night, Milanović was congratulated by European Council President Charles Michel.

"I believe that Croatia will contribute to the future development of the European Union especially during its first presidency of the Council of the EU," he posted on Twitter.

US Ambassador Robert Kohorst on Monday congratulated Croatian President-elect Zoran Milanović on his victory and would not comment on the support President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovicć received for her re-election by Julienne Bušić, saying Bušić was not worth commenting.

We are glad that Croatia had a very active campaign and, it seems to me, a fair election. I congratulate the president-elect on his victory and am looking forward to our collaboration, Kohorst told reporters ahead of a reception for Orthodox Christmas organised by the Serb National Council and the Zagreb Serb National Minority Council.

Kohorst expects to have good cooperation with Milanović because, he said, he seems to be a capable person who watches out for Croatia's best interests which, he added, also means good partnership with the United States.

He would not comment on Julienne Bušić's support to Grabar-Kitarović. Her late husband Zvonko Bušić was sentenced to life imprisonment in the US for hijacking a passenger plane and planting a bomb which killed New York police officer Brian Murray.

I don't want to comment because I think she is not a person worth commenting about, said Kohorst.

More news about relations between Croatia and the United States can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Milanovic Didn't Win, Kolinda Lost: 2014 v 2019 and the BiH Anomaly

January 6, 2020 - A quick comparison of the Croatian Presidential election results o 2014 and 2019 shows where Kolinda lost, as well as a rather interesting anomaly in the diaspora. 

The people have spoken, and Croatia has voted for a new President, former SDP Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, who beat incumbent HDZ President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic by a comfortable margin of more than 100,000 votes, 52.67% to 47.33%, 1,034,389 votes to 929,488, a margin of victory of 104,901.

International media are reporting that voters moved to the left, but a little research into the statistics of the 2014 election, where Grabar-Kitarovic beat Ivo Josipovic in a tight race, shows that the outcome of the election was more a case of people not voting for the candidate on the right, rather than voting for the man on the left. 

Kolinda's 929,488 votes compared very poorly with her 2014 haul of 1,114,945, down a massive 20%, while Milanovic actually got less votes than Josipovic's 1,082,436 

This was more a case of an election lost than an election won. A quick look at the official results from both elections show where Kolinda lost the battle - right in the heart of Zagreb. Not only did almost 50,000 less people in the capital vote for her than 5 years previously, but it was one of only three regions in the country (Zagreb County and Krapinsko-Zagorska were the others) where more people voted for Milanovic than Josipovic. The 2019 swing in the city of Zagreb alone was 58,205, more than half the margin of victory. 


As you can see from the table above, the other main regions to desert Kolinda were HDZ strongholds in eastern Croatia, as well as Splitsko-Dalmatinska. In fact, the only place where Kolinda increased her vote from 2019 was in the diaspora, where there was a significant increase in the vote for both candidates... but herein lies an interesting story. 

We recently took a closer look at the voting patterns in Croatian elections and referenda. The diaspora is a very vocal and influential part of Croatian society, with their remittances more than 2 billion euro a year (more than direct foreign investment in Croatia), and I was surprised to see how few of them actually voted, particularly in Australia, which has arguably the most vocal diaspora of all. Just over 1,000 Australian Croats votes in the first round of the Presidential elections. You can see more about the diverse voting patterns among the Croatian diaspora in this TCN feature

So with such a surge in support for Kolinda abroad, surely this showed that the diaspora was rallying in support for their HDZ President. 

Well, not quite... 


Votes for Kolinda were sharply down in the countries with large Croatian diaspora - Germany, Australia, Canada, USA - and mirrored the voting patterns within Croatia. With one big exception. Bosnia and Hercegovina. 

While not a single other region increased their vote for Kolinda (unless you count 7 extra votes in Ireland after the huge exodus there over the last few years), not only did the very loyal HDZ base in Hercegovina increase the vote, they more than doubled it, from 16,160 votes in 2014, to 32,647 yesterday. 

And if the statistics of the diaspora are analysed without BiH, they make for fairly grim reading for Kolinda as well. The overall vote for her was about a third less, while Milanovic increased the Josipovic vote in all key countries. The diaspora preference for HDZ is still huge, but in terms of voting patterns, there seems to be a small trend developing.

Is it all bad news for HDZ? Not at all. This was an election lost by voters not turning up, rather than people voting en masse for the other side. Perhaps a few lessons learned in voter turnout from those chaps in Siroki Brijeg or Ljubuski could do the trick... 

For the latest in politics from Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section

Monday, 6 January 2020

Prime Minister Plenković Expects Hard Cohabitation with President-Elect Milanović

ZAGREB, January 6, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković congratulated Zoran Milanović on winning the presidential election on Sunday, saying he expected a hard cohabitation in accordance with the constitution and law.

"I congratulate Zoran Milanović on winning the trust of the majority of the Croatian electorate in the second round of the presidential election and wish him success in his work. We will work together in accordance with our constitutional powers and the law," Plenković told the press after Milanović, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and several other centre-left parties, won the runoff election against the incumbent president and candidate of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.

He added that he would call Milanović to congratulate him on his victory.

Plenković thanked Grabar-Kitarović for her five years in office and her commitment to working for the benefit of Croatia and all its people, strengthening the country's international standing and ensuring the harmonious functioning of all institutions of the state.

He also thanked all HDZ members who had done their best in the campaign so that Grabar-Kitarović would win a second term, as well as all partner parties and their voters for their support to the outgoing president.

Asked if the result of the vote was also a message to him, Plenković said that the HDZ would analyse the election results and why their candidate lost. He said that there were several reasons, recalling that he had said during the campaign in the run-up to the first round that every vote from the right side of the political spectrum that went to Miroslav Škoro, a singer-turned-politician backed by right-wing anti-establishment parties, was a vote for Milanović.

He also mentioned the fact that 4.6 percent of votes in the runoff were declared invalid, adding that this was a huge number. "When people give instructions on how to vote in the second round, they are expected to be mature and responsible. Those were not mature messages," he said alluding to Škoro.

Asked if the HDZ would now go more to the right to win back Škoro's voters, Plenković said that no one owned voters. "Our citizens are smart, wise and responsible, and what is important in every election competition, they should get informed and not fall for sugarcoated lies that abound in politics."

As for pretenders to his position as the HDZ leader, Plenković said that "it is a good position and there are many who crave for it." Asked to comment on the statement by his deputy Milijan Brkić that he would run for the HDZ leadership, Plenković said he respected everyone's ambition and that anyone who wanted to run should do so.

Plenković said that in the three years of his term they had done a lot for the HDZ and its membership, modernising the party and consolidating it financially.

Asked if a grand coalition with the SDP was possible for the next parliamentary election, due this autumn, Plenković said he would do all he could to ensure that the HDZ won the parliamentary election again.

More news about the presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Outgoing President Grabar-Kitarović Extends Her Hand to Milanović

ZAGREB, January 6, 2020 - The incumbent president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, speaking on Sunday evening after the announcement of preliminary results of the runoff election showing that she had lost to her challenger, former Social Democrat prime minister Zoran Milanović, extended her hand to the winner and said she expected a civilised transfer of power.

"Croatia has decided. Zoran Milanović will be the next president and I congratulate him on that," Grabar-Kitarović said in her campaign headquarters, asking her supporters to stop booing at the mention of Milanovic's name.

She proposed that she and Milanović meet before the formal handover of power, saying that what Croatia needed was stability. "For me, campaigning finished on Friday, and I will not say a single word against my predecessors or successor," he added.

Grabar-Kitarović said that a lesson that could be drawn from this election was that office holders should spend more time among the people and listen to them. She thanked all the voters, both at home and abroad, for going to the polls and showing that they cared about Croatia.

She also thanked her family for their support, as well as the leadership of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party headed by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, party members, sympathisers, other parties and individuals who supported her.

Summing up her five years in office, Grabar-Kitarović said she had focused on Croatian national, state and religious values, the Homeland War as the foundation of modern Croatia, war veterans, their families, and soldiers and civilians killed or gone missing during the 1991-1995 war.

She said that Croatians are strongest when they are together. "We showed that in wartime and we have to show it in peacetime. Let's stay united and together for our Croatia!"

More news about presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 6 January 2020

President-Elect Milanović Pledges to Live Up to Trust Placed in Him

ZAGREB, January 6, 2020 - Croatia's President-elect, Zoran Milanović, said in his first address after the presidential runoff on Sunday that he hoped he would not let down the people who placed their trust in him.

During his speech, interrupted by greetings and chants of about 1,000 jubilant supporters and Social Democratic Party officials and members in his election headquarters, Milanović said that the election campaign was "tough, long and not always fair."

"However, politics is a passionate job, full of love and sometimes filled with intolerance, and I did my best," said the fifth elected president of Croatia since the country gained independence.

Milanović thanked his rival Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović in his victory speech, and the mentioning of the name of the incumbent president was booed by his supporters which Milanović quickly stopped and urged that a similar situation "happened five years ago and should never happen again."

Milanović went on to say that Croatian voters had elected him to be the president of the republic, the president of all citizens, both ethnic Croats and people of other ethnic backgrounds. "I am happy about that!"

"In my life I have done other things as well. I was a prime minister and that has been a burden on this path (towards presidency). I am aware that not everyone likes me. We must live with that and move on because we are few, we are not successful enough and cannot afford to divide ourselves," Milanović said.

He went on to say that he would not tell "touching tales about unity" and that he would not make unrealistic promises.

"People differ from one another, and I will try not to insult anyone and I will try to pursue dialogue, aware that there are different people among us, with different worldviews, with prejudices, to which I myself am not immune because I am just a human being," said Milanović, whose presidency bid is supported by the SDP and several opposition parties from the left spectrum.

"The four million of us (Croatian citizens) are seeking our own place under the sun, and a niche on the journey we are travelling, a place in Europe which, despite all the problems it faces, is the most beautiful place and continent to live in, and we are part of that continent," he added.

Milanovic said in this context that he would cooperate with the government, and ruled out any desire for greater powers on his part.

"There will be no plotting, no secret deals. I will treat all political parties equally, because we are a multiparty parliamentary democracy. It is not perfect, but there is nothing better than that. Any other way would lead to autocracy, tyranny, arbitrariness, plunder, and the President of Republic must be an obstacle to that," said Milanović.

"If this narrow but fair and clear victory of mine gives some faith and some spirit to our society and to our people, I am a happy man and let us rejoice together," Milanović concluded in his victory speech.

More news about Zoran Milanović can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Turnout by 11.30 Higher Than on December 22

ZAGREB, January 5, 2020 - 120,000 more voters went to the polls by 11.30 a.m. in Sunday's presidential runoff than in the first election round on December 22, the State Election Commission said. The turnout by 11.30 a.m. was 18.87% while two weeks ago it was 15.75%.

Even though the turnout is rather good, it is lower than five years ago, when in the presidential runoff between Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Ivo Josipović 100,000 more voters went to the polls by 11.30 a.m.

In neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina 3,500 more voters went to the polls by 11.30 a.m. than in the first election round.

Polling stations opened across Croatia at 7 a.m. in the presidential runoff in which 3,860,000 eligible voters are choosing between incumbent Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, supported by the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), and former prime minister Zoran Milanović, the candidate of the opposition Social Democrats (SDP).

More news about the presidential elections can be found in the Politics section.

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