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Croatia - Presidential Election

Presidential Election in Croatia
a round up one week before the 1st round

Presidential Election in Croatia
a round up one week before the 1st round

12/12/2009 - D-7

On 27th December 4.4 million Croats are being called to vote to appoint the President of the Republic to succeed Stjepan Mesic; the latter has been in office since 2000 and cannot run for a 3rd term. The election date selected by the government aims to enable a great number of expatriates who often return home for the Christmas period to vote. The latter are indeed traditionally supporters of the Democratic Union (HDZ) in office at present. If no candidate wins the majority of the vote on 27th December a 2nd round will be organized on 10th January next.

12 people are running for the supreme office:
- Andrija Hebrang (HDZ), former Vice-President of the government, Defence, Health and Social Services Minister;
- Ivo Josipovic, Social Democratic Party (SDP) led by Zoran Milanovic, professor of law at the university of Zagreb and composer;
- Milan Bandic, Mayor of Zagreb, excluded from the SDP after having announced that he was running and who has the support of the Democratic Farmers' (HDSS);
- Vesna Pusic, candidate of the People's Party-Liberal Democrats (HNS), head of the parliamentary committee for the negotiation process between Croatia and the EU;
- Damir Kajin, candidate of the Democratic Party of Istria (IDS);
- Nadan Vidosevic, excluded from the HDZ, supported by the Coastal Regions of Primorje and Gorski Kotar Party (PGS);
- Miroslav Tudjman, son of former President (1990-1999) Franjo Tudjman;
- Vesna Skare Ozbolt, former Justice Minister who has the support of the Democratic Centre (DC);
- Dragan Primorac, former Education Minister and former HDZ member;
- Josip Jurcevic, historian and teacher;
- Boris Miksic, an emigré Croat from the US where he founded the Cortec Corporation,
- Slavo Vuksic, candidate for the Democratic Slavon Party, entrepreneur and former MP in Nasice.

An original fact in this election is that the two main political parties are facing the same problem: the secession of either one or several of their members who decided to run for election alongside the candidate appointed by the party.
Andrija Hebrang, the HDZ candidate was not chosen by an internal party vote but was proposed by Ivo Sanader, former Prime Minister (2003-2009) and former party president to run for the supreme office. The choice of Andrija Hebrang was approved by the HDZ congress. "Those who left the party cannot be HDZ candidates. We have no hidden candidates. We have nothing to hide, we are playing an honest game and Andrija Hebrang is our only candidate. He is also the best candidate and the best solution for Croatia," declared Prime Minister Jadranska Kosor (HDZ). For his part the HDZ's official candidate is also asking questions: "How can someone who has failed with his party not fail the electorate? Someone who does not respect a party's rules will be unable to respect the Constitution." Andrija Hebrang did not hesitate in qualifying Dragan Primorac and Nadan Vidosevic whom he accuses of having abandoned the party (after their secession the two men were excluded) as "traitors" and "deserters".
With the slogan of "For a proud, European Croatia" Andrija Hebrang is using the Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor's result for support. If he is elected he is promising to undertake major reforms in Croatia: reform of taxation, the Welfare State, the agricultural system, justice and the educational system. He hopes to counter corruption, a scourge which is rotting the country. He says he wants to see Croatia make up for lost time quickly to reach EU countries' development levels (Croatian living standards represent 63% of the EU average). Finally, Andrija Hebrang wants to promote the values of the war of independence and re-establish the dignity of the veterans of that war as well as national pride. He also says that he was the only one to have volunteered during the war of independence. He says he spent several months in Bosnia-Herzegovina working as a humanitarian aid. "I hope that Croatian voters will remember what each of the candidates did during the difficult times that Croatia has experienced."

Nadan Vidosevic, former HDZ member is promoting his links to Bosnia-Herzegovina where he was born. Former President of the Chamber of Commerce he is often accused of having acquired in short space of time and in a rather strange manner a great quantity of money. To these accusations he usually answers that he has worked a lot and that he made fortunate investments. During a televised debate which brought him up against Dragan Primorac the two men even went as far insulting each other in the studio when this subject was raised.

The main opposition candidate, Ivo Josipovic started his electoral campaign at the national theatre of Zagreb with the slogan "Justice for Croatia". He criticized the government in office whom he accuses of neglecting the population and of not fighting against corruption. He is the main favourite in the polls which places him ahead of all of the others in terms of voting intentions.

Milan Bandic, former representative of the SDP rightwing was excluded from the party. He is fighting for "a society of equality and fairness". "I defend social values and moral principles that have deteriorated in Croatia because these are the basis of a healthy society and the guarantee of economic recovery. It is necessary to restore the pride and dignity of the Croatian people," declared the Mayor of Zagreb. He is due to undertake the most expensive electoral campaign in the country's history (around 20 million kuna).

With the slogan "Renewal for Croatia" Miroslav Tudjman is fighting for Croatia to recover its dignity. "Cooperation on the part of the Croatian authorities with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia in the Hague (ICTY) shows us that the country has to change policy and move over from servility to autonomy," he maintains. Franjo Tudjman's son wants to his country to develop relations with the states of Central Europe and the Mediterranean and says he supports a renewal in the partnership with the USA and all of the other countries in which a great number of Croatian expatriates are living. "The European Union has to be a tool for Croatian policy and in no way its goal," declared Miroslav Tudjman.

The Democratic Party of Istria's candidate Damir Kajin is undertaking a campaign against the agreement signed between Zagreb and Ljubljana on 11th September over the border which separates the two countries. Slovenia, which has 25 km of coast on the Adriatic Sea, wants to secure direct access to the sea, which has been prevented so far by Croatia since it considers the band of coast as its own. The signature of the agreement led to Croatia resuming negotiations for EU membership. "I am not against the EU but I shall not vote in favour of the agreement," declared Damir Kajin.
All of the candidates are undertaking a specific campaign with regard to Croats living abroad and notably those living in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "This election is of particular importance for the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina because it will influence the action of the next Head of State with regard to the situation," declared Andrija Hebrang who was visiting Siroki Brijeg, in Southern Bosnia-Herzegovina. "Bosnia Herzegovina is the Croats' second homeland and you cannot be the Croatian President without taking that into account," said Nadan Vidosevic in Tomislvagrad (Bosnia-Herzegovina) on 30th November last.

The previous presidential election result on 2nd and 6th January 2005 showed the weight of the vote of the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Five years ago 77,578 Croats living abroad turned out to appoint the Head of State, i.e. 3.5%. For the time being the battle is a closely run one between Milan Bandic and Nadan Vidosevic.

Like Milan Bandic, Andrija Hebrang is from Bosnia-Herzegovina. The HDZ candidate is quick to stress that he thinks some candidates in the election deserted during the 1991-1995 war and did nothing for the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Miroslav Tudjman is asking for Bosnia-Herzegovina to be divided into three territorial units. He visited the family of Dario Kordic who was condemned on 26th February 2001 to 25 years in prison by the ICTY for crimes against humanity and infringements of the Geneva Convention. Miroslav Tudjman is accusing the Croatian government of delivering Croatian army generals to the ICTY and humiliating veterans of the war of independence. He says that if he is elected he will defend the unity of the Diaspora and the homeland as well as national interest. Finally Dragan Primorac is using the fact that he led the HDZ list for the Diaspora in the last general elections on 25th November 2007.

Two TV debates have taken place. One was broadcast on HRT bringing together 10 of the 12 candidates on 20th November. Andrija Hebrang refused to take part saying that he was being discriminated against by all TV channels. The HDZ candidate has accused his rivals on several occasions saying that they refuse to reveal where they made their fortunes. "It is a campaign for tycoons. Airtime and the price of advertising on TV show that the so-called independent candidates have more money than those appointed by the political parties," he stressed. The second show took place on 10th December on the Nova TV channel. Ivo Josipovic, Nadan Vidosevic, Andrija Hebrang, Dragan Primorac and Vesna Pusic were present, Milan Bandic declined the invitation. The EU, the economy and the fight against corruption were the main subjects addressed.

The latest polls place Ivo Josipovic ahead in terms of voting intentions (29.3% according to Puls and 19.2% for Totus Opinionmetar). But the battle is due to be closely run for second place. According to Puls, Nadan Vidosevic is due to win 13.9%, Milan Bandic 12.2%, Dragan Primorac 10.4%, Andrija Hebrang 7.6% and Vesna Pusic, 7.2%. The 7 other candidates are due to win below the 5% mark. Totus Opiniometar places Nadan Vidosevic 2nd with 13.5% ahead of Andrija Hebrang (6.8%), Milan Bandic (6.3%) and Vesna Pusic (5.5%). The other candidates are due to win less than 5%.
Outgoing Stjepan Mesic indicated that he did not want to continue working in politics. He said that he wanted to order his papers and correspondence and that he would remain at the government's disposal.
The official campaign will end on 25th December at midnight. The next president will take office on 18th February 2010.
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
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