>Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2000 10:02:00 +0100
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>From: Paola Lucchesi <paola.lucchesi at mail.inet.it>
>>The social-democratic coalition trounced the late president's party in the
>>parliamentary poll, securing a clear mandate and a coalition strong enough
>>to implement far-reaching reform.
>>By Drago Hedl in Zagreb
>>Only three weeks after the death of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, his
>>Croatian Democratic Party (HDZ) has been literally buried in parliamentary
>>elections, held January 3.
>>An opposition coalition uniting the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the
>>Croatian Social-Liberal Party (HSLS) defeated the HDZ in nine out of ten
>>electoral districts. Together with other parties, which together formed an
>>alliance known as "the six", the opposition won two-thirds of the
>>parliamentary seats.
>>No one in the opposition camp had dared hope for such a victory and no
>>opinion polls had anticipated such a result. The turn out was exceptionally
>>high, with more than 75 per cent of voters casting their ballots - a
>>percentage not seen since the first multi-party elections in 1990.
>>The scale of the defeat has left the HDZ in a serious state of shock. With
>>incredible arrogance the party had claimed the laurels for founding the
>>independent state of Croatia and defending the country in 1991. By seizing
>>control of the media, the HDZ perpetuated these myths and manipulated public
>>But the reality was quite different. Political and economic power in Croatia
>>was shared out among a ruling elite of around 200 families, with the Tudjman
>>clan at the head. The country is now impoverished, economic output is half
>>that of 1990 and foreign debt has risen to $9.6 billion.
>>Tudjman's provocative policy in Bosnia-Herzegovina, his stubborn refusal to
>>cooperate with the Hague war crimes tribunal and his fierce nationalism
>>brought Croatia international isolation.
>>Croatia's voters acknowledged all this at the ballot box, dismissing HDZ
>>scare-mongering that without them the country would revert to communism. In
>>fact the HDZ has 60,000 former communists in its ranks, more than all the
>>other parties put together.
>>New Prime Minister Ivica Racan of the SDP and his coalition partner Drazen
>>Budisa of the HSLS said they will need time to assess all the problems they
>>have inherited from the previous administration. But they have already
>>announced drastic cuts in public expenditure including a reduction in
>>ministerial salaries, an end to the extravagance typical of the Tudjman's
>>era, cuts in defence and police budgets, an end to the financing of
>>Herzeg-Bosnia. Furthermore the coalition promises a revision of former state
>>owned companies seized and plundered by HDZ supporters.
>>Without foreign investment the government will struggle to reduce Croatia's
>>20 per cent unemployment rate. Hence the coalition government has announced
>>a more cooperative policy towards the international community, including
>>respect for the democratic standards of the West.
>>Having secured 40 per cent of the vote, the SDP and HSLS coalition could
>>form a government on their own. The other four opposition parties won only
>>15 per cent. But abiding by agreements with the four other parties, a
>>six-party coalition government will be formed, including the Croatian
>>Peasants' Party, the Croatian People's Party, the Liberal Party, and the
>>Istrian Democratic Assembly.
>>Combined the six party coalition will enjoy a crucial two-thirds majority in
>>parliament, allowing vital constitutional changes. The opposition promised,
>>during the election campaign, to reduce the enormous powers held by the
>>While Tudjman was alive the opposition had demanded a public statement that
>>he would abide by the election results and had proposed a special law to
>>ensure a peaceful hand-over of power. Neither demand was met.
>>Croatia is now in an unusual situation. There is no head of state, the
>>parliament is disbanded and the government voted out of office. But no one
>>it seems fears a violent backlash from the HDZ.
>>Without Tudjman, and having won only 24 per cent of the vote, it is
>>improbable that the HDZ will embark on an anything as adventurous as coup
>>d'etat. The HDZ's natural ally, the extreme right-wing Croatian Party of
>>Rights, won only five seats in parliament.
>>Croatia is now waiting for the presidential elections, scheduled for January
>>24. After a great deal of internal argument, the HDZ candidate will be Mate
>>Granic, Tudjman's long-standing foreign minister. Even though he is the
>>HDZ's most popular politician, he suffered a serious defeat in his electoral
>>district, securing only 21 per cent. Incoming Prime Minister Racan won 51
>>per cent of the votes in his district.
>>Granic's chances of presidential victory have now been significantly reduced
>>despite his good showing in opinion polls taken before the parliamentary
>>elections. Racan's partner Budisa now looks favourite to replace Tudjman as
>>Should Budisa win the presidential elections, the rapid dismantling of the
>>Tudjman era will follow. This will not be an easy process. But when the
>>January 3 results were released, Croatia breathed a sigh of relief.
>>Dragutin Hedl is a regular contributor to IWPR in Zagreb.