Thursday, July 24, 2003

Earliest Preview of 2003 Elections

Zlatko Tomčić (Zlatko Tomcic) and Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) have recently agreed about approximate date of elections – November 23rd or 30th 2003. President Mesić (Mesic) was consulted and used opportunity to suggest later date in Spring 2004. His suggestion was quickly rejected, probably because Tomčić and Račan think that extra six months would be used to boost chances of HNS, the third largest party in coalition (to whom Mesić belonged before being elected to President).

In the meantime Globus has published first poll that tries to predict outcome based on opinion polls in ten electoral districts. Globus has somewhat contradictory results – according to poll, SDP made enormous progress in last few months and is in virtual neck-and-neck race with leading HDZ (19,5 % to 20 %). But the most interesting thing that SDP, despite being half a percentage lower on national level, leads in six out of ten districts. This is the reason why this poll should be taken with a large grain of salt. Electoral district were left unchanged from 1999 electoral law, which was specifically designed to give maximum advantage to HDZ, often by most blatant gerrymandering. In 2000 elections this gerrymandering did little good to HDZ, because anti-HDZ vote was so overwhelming and anti-HDZ opposition was united. In 2003, low turnout and anti-HDZ parties appearing solo might give HDZ extra edge.

Another reason to distrust Globus polls in its traditional failure to predict correct election results. During Tudjman years Globus often had polls showing Dražen Budiša’s (Drazen Budisa’s) HSLS in lead over HDZ only to have all subsequent elections resulting with HDZ beating HSLS by large margins. This could be explained with Globus using bad polling methods (phone instead of door-to-door surveys, unrepresentative samples etc.) and people’s tendency not to admit which party they would vote for. In 1990s it turned out that HDZ reigned supreme among “undecided” voters, especially those polled in urban areas.

However, HDZ wasn’t the only party to fare better on elections than in Globus polls. SDP too managed to surprise many that had based its prediction on opinion polls (not just in Globus). This could be explained with people’s reluctance, especially during war years, to admit their loyalty towards the party associated with Communism and Yugoslavia. So, SDP, just like HDZ, fared better on elections than in opinion polls. Both parties also enjoyed loyal voting base among pensioners – people most likely to vote, usually for those already in power and afraid of newcomers that could take away their puny privileges.

This, as well as subtle propaganda campaign themed around Račan’s (Racan’s) coalition inevitable victory in government media, is the reason why Račan can comfortably await November. If HDZ and SDP fare better than in opinion polls, the difference would come at the expense of smaller parties. And smaller parties – DC, HSP, HSLS – are minor league players from Croatian right wings, whose entry to Sabor is essential for Sanader if he is to deprive Račan of majority.

So, if Globus prediction of Račan’s victory might not be that far from truth.


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