Sunday, August 24, 2003

Just A Little Pregnant

Jozo Radoš (Jozo Rados), former defence minister and current leader of Libra – one of minor league parties that form Račan's (Racan's) governing coalition – lambasted criminal investigation against Ante Barbir, recently dismissed Croatian drug czar. In Radoš' view, embezzlement of few thousands euros is "minor transgression that doesn't warrant such scrutiny and the investigation would only create dangerous precedent".

There are probably few misguided souls who could even bother to find arguments for Radoš something like "too much scrutiny over public officials would lead to repression and paralyse the normal functioning of government". Most people would, however, have little understanding for Radoš's apologetic view of "nickel and dime" corruption just as they would have little sympathy for the girl claiming that she is "just a little pregnant".

Radoš's statement is even more interesting in the context of his record as defence minister in first two and half years of Račan's government. Radoš, who had been appointed at the helm of Defence Ministry as HSLS cadre, did very little to clean up the ministry that in many ways symbolised all the worst aspects of Tudjman's reign, including corruption.

Radoš said what he said only few months before the elections, and that statement, at first glance, might look like the clearest example of political suicide. The wise thing for every member of governing coalition would be to distance himself from Barbir and commend Croatian police and judiciary acting against public officials, which was not the case under the reign of today's main opposition party. Radoš should be even more careful because his own party has microscopic chances of entering Sabor on its own – its best chance is to offer a percentage point or two of its votes to Račan in districts where the race might be tight and thus get a seat or two as part of coalition ticket.

However, Radoš have other things on his mind. When defending Barbir, he indirectly defends himself. Barbir, just like Radoš, got his post after 2000 elections as member of HSLS (replacing somewhat controversial Dr. Slavko Sakoman, Croatia's best known drug addiction expert). And just like Radoš, in Summer of 2002 Barbir decided to ditch his party boss Dražen Budiša (Drazen Budisa), leave HSLS and join Libra – new party whose sole purpose was allow former HSLS members to keep their government posts in exchange for providing Sabor majority to Račan's government.

However, unlike Radoš – who was forced to leave Defence Ministry (and later advocate abandonment of conscription and other military reforms he had kept quiet about while being minister) – Barbir kept his job. Barbir wasn't expert and his tenure wasn't marked with much success in tackling drug problem in Croatia, but he, unlike Sakoman, kept out of public spotlight and didn't oppose marijuana decriminalisation – measure advocated by Račan in order to appease youth voters. That was enough for Račan, and that was more than enough for Radoš. People like Barbir were consolation prize to Radoš – proof that his party can still have some influence in the government, and that influence could come very handily in pre-election coalition bargaining. With Barbir gone, Libra lost influence and it is understandable why Radoš is so angry.


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