Tuesday, September 09, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] Femme Fatale

Doris Košta (Doris Kosta) might not be the best lawyer in Split, but she is definitely among the better looking ones. Apart from her appearances, she recently grabbed significant attention of Croatian media by being involved in many high-profile places and representing Hajduk Split. Soon after becoming one of Croatia's fast-rising celebrity, she decided to utilise that fame by entering politics and becoming the leader of DC. That very decision, it seems, might have important consequences for future of Croatia, because it could affect the outcome of 2003 elections.

As I have written earlier, HDZ can expect to end up as the strongest party in Sabor after next elections. But that wouldn't be enough for Ivo Sanader to become prime minister; according to most polls and predictions, three major parties of Ivica Račan's (Ivica Racan's) coalition – SDP, HSS and HNS – can expect comfortable majority. The only chance for HDZ lies in small right-wing parties; only if they enter Sabor, their seats could provide Ivo Sanader with necessary majority. The problem for Sanader is in most of those parties having little chance of breaking the 5 % vote limit; at least in most of ten electoral districts. Votes cast for them are going to be lost and seats taken by two major parties – HDZ and SDP.

The most sensible thing for those right-wing parties is, of course, to join forces and go to elections on coalition tickets. One of the most likely and most talked about combination was the coalition between HSLS and DC. Those two parties have plenty in common – HSLS are former centrists that have shifted towards right, and DC are former Tudjmanists from the right who claim that they have shifted towards centre. Throughout much of 1990s HSLS leader Dražen Budiša (Drazen Budisa) has preached the coalition with HDZ, namely with its "moderate" and "liberal" faction, whose leadership was often attributed to current DC chief Mate Granić (Mate Granic). If this "centre-right" combination gets Sabor seats, they would be more suitable partners for Sanader than other right-wing parties, branded by extremist past or populated by Sanader's sworn enemies.

At present, HSLS could, with reasonable degrees of certainty, expect to break 5% in one or two out of ten electoral districts. DC have somewhat weaker chances, but it could too get one seat from Slavonia. But those 2-3 seats, even when HSP adds few of their own, wouldn't be enough for HDZ to form government. HSLS and DC would need to appear as joint ticket in order to break 5% limit in all ten districts.

However, the recent history of Croatia has shown that the sensible consideration is usually at odds with party leaders' vanities. And negotiations between HSLS and DC are just another example. According to Feral Tribune, the majority of unresolved differences between two parties were related to 10th Electoral District (Split, Dubrovnik). During the negotiations Budiša insisted that the first place on the candidates' list be reserved for him and second for his main ally in Dalmatia, former Split mayor Ivica Škarić (Ivica Skaric). The third place was left for Doris Košta.

DC negotiators refused such scheme, and everyone with the basic knowledge of electoral mathematics would do the same. Each district elects 14 members of Sabor. In such circumstances, 7.14 %, rather than 5 % is the right limit. HSLS-DC can expect 5 %, or even 7.14 %. But if HSLS-DC wants two seats, then they would have to secure 14.28 %. This is more problematic, but still within realms of possibility. 3 seats would require 21.42 %. Now, this percentage for HSLS-DC, even in Dalmatia (where both parties are expecting to fare better than in the rest of country), is possible, but only at elections held in not so foreseeable future. In short, DC would have to accept the scheme that would help their partners and give them nothing in return. According to Feral, Košta was the one unhappy with HSLS proposal.

Tonight, state television broke the news about HSLS and DC officially ending negotiations and running their candidates' lists alone. Whether Doris Košta indeed was crucial factor in this or not is not important right now. But I would really like to see her in Sabor; during her television appearances she was articulate, well-spoken and Sabor could only benefit from her presence. Now, most of Sabor women are going to be major party airheads who sit, never speak a word and only validate the worst sexist stereotypes.


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