Wednesday, April 09, 2003

The Date Is Set

Next general elections are going to be held in middle of October. This announcement came roughly a week after Sabor passing some amendments to current electoral law. Although it might seem that this represents the continuation of Tudjman era legislative practices towards elections – changing electoral laws before each elections – those changes are minor and concern only the numbers of seats reserved for various ethnic minorities and Croat diaspora. Sabor was mandated by latest Constitutional Act to pass those amendments until to March 31st 2003.

That opportunity was, however, almost misused by SDP, which tried to reduce the number of representatives in Sabor in each electoral district. The reduced number would in practicality raise the percentage of vote necessary for single party to have its representatives in Sabor from today's 6% to 8 %. The idea was to significantly reduce possibility of smaller parties – namely Račan's (Racan's) coalition partners – entering Sabor. That would lead to SDP and HDZ being only major parties in Sabor and establishment of two-party system. HDZ was, naturally, also interested in such idea and there was speculation about their representatives voting for such proposal in de facto coalition with SDP. However, results of IRI and few other polls showed that HNS and HSS took some of SDP voters and got very close to 10% of the general vote. Only few days before the vote, SDP quietly dropped the initiative.

That doesn't mean that proponents of multi-party democracy should be particularly happy about this. Current electoral law is probably the worst of all ever passed since 1990. Country is gerrymandered in order to group HDZ voters together, sometimes with ridiculous results – people in Zagreb suburbs must vote in the same electoral district as people on Adriatic Coast etc. It is almost certain that HDZ is going to be over-represented following the next elections.

Vesna Pusić (Vesna Pusic), leader of HNS, calls this a triumph of democracy, because for her this is the first instance that the people would elect new Sabor in the same manner that they have done previously. Pusić is wrong, because first such instance occurred in 1997 during elections for House of Counties (upper house of Sabor, abolished by post-Tudjman Constitution amendments).


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