Saturday, June 28, 2003

Full Circle

Last week history went full circle in Split-Dalmatian County Assembly. In 1993 Kruno Peronja of HDZ became first governor of Split-Dalmatian County. Few years later, after the alarming defeat of HDZ in Zagreb City elections, Ivić Pašalić (Ivic Pasalic), Tudjman's chief domestic policy advisor, tried to woo voters by promising the fight against corruption and "mafiocracy" as Tudjman's first post-war priority. Of course, that was an excellent excuse for Pašalić to start his own little purge and fill the top ranks of HDZ and Croatian administration with as many of his supporters as possible.

One of those supporters was Branimir Lukšić (Branimir Luksic) and one of the people who had to clear the way for Lukšić was Peronja. Peronja was marked for removal after his name being leaked to HDZ-friendly "independent" media as part of HDZ's own black list of people who had or were suspected of having hands dirty. The allegations were never proven and the matter was dropped, but Peronja went out of favour and Lukšić rose to the top. Split University professor, soon became not only county governor but also one of the most hard-line of all Croatian right-wingers. His rigidity and virulence of his speeches only escalated after Tudjman's death and subsequent defeat of HDZ on 2000 parliamentary elections. In Spring of 2001 HDZ comfortably won local elections in Split-Dalmatian County, allowing Lukšić to retain his post of county governor.

Unfortunately for Lukšić, the great HDZ factional struggle between Sanader and Pašalić ended with the defeat of Pašalić. Sanader decided to make another purge, mainly to clear the party of everyone potentially disloyal to him and partly to make impression of turning HDZ into "moderate European centre-right party". Lukšić had to go, but Sanader had to woo many HDZ County assemblymen, many of whom had political views even more extreme than Lukšić. In the end, Lukšić was replaced with the aid of all right-wing parties; HB and HDZ had decided to overcome their dislike of each other, fearing that the protracted County Assembly battle would lead to deadlock and Račan's government appointing commissioner, thus depriving right-wingers of power in strategically important county in the most unpleasant moment, only few months before new parliamentary elections.

To add insult to injury for Lukšić and Pašalić alike, Peronja turned out to be Sanader's choice of County governor.


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