Sunday, November 30, 2003

General In Hollywood

Faced with the uphill battle during Democratic primaries, General Wesley Clark is trying to enlist support of Hollywood, including Madonna. I don't think that this would help his chances, at least judging by the success Hollywood celebrities had in turning American public against war in Iraq.

Story Supernova Horror Show

Last night's Story Supernova Music Talents show is not going to be remembered for any musical performance. Real show stealer was the exchange between two jury members, recorded by cameras back stage. One was former TV host Mirna Berend who had already made waves thanks to couple of double entendres directed towards her arch-rival Vlatka Pokos couple of weeks before. During one of the previous exchanges Pokos said that Berend, woman far from her young years, preferred younger boys.

This was opportunity used by Josip Katalenić (Josip Katalenic), young wannabe pop star and jury member of Story Supernova Juniors. Katalenić had been object of intense media criticism and nasty accusations for child abuse due to his immature antics, sexist language and verbal abuse during Juniors show. When his name was announced during last night's show, there were applause was followed by boos from the audience.

That didn't discourage Katalenić from making his move which resulted in an exchange that would, in most likelihood, enter the annals of Croatian entertainment industry.

KATALENIĆ: I have a little question for you. I heard that you prefer younger men, but of legal age. Since I'm of legal age, is there any chance for me to ask you out for a coffee or something like that?

BEREND: Don't be angry, but you aren't my type. Sorry, but you aren't my type at all.

KATALENIĆ: And what I have to do to become your type?

BEREND: Nothing. You would have be born again as dark, tall, handsome, smart, charming…

KATALENIĆ: Then I would have to wait for you to have daughter…

BEREND: In another lifetime, in another lifetime…

Only an hour later this exchange became prime time news on Media Index website.

Apart from Katalenić making complete idiot of himself, the ultimate highlight of last night show was musical number, again not deprived of some nasty associations. Nera Stipičević (Nera Stipicevic) did her own version of You Make My Feel, dressed up and made up to look like the clone of Michael Jackson. Seeing her on stage surrounded by screaming pre-teen boys was both sinister and magnificent spectacle.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Return of the King

The final instalment of Lord of the Rings trilogy is going to enjoy some extra publicity in Serbia, thanks to Serbian Orthodox Church.
UPDATE: One of the greatest ironies in all this is the choice of date for this particular initiative. In good old times November 29th was known as Republic Day – former Yugoslavia's biggest holiday, which marked the anniversary of abolition of monarchy.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Tomčić (Tomcic) Plays Hardball

Talks between HDZ and HSS economic experts' teams have stalled today, due to differences in regards to fiscal policy. HDZ wants to lower VAT to 20%, while in the same time increasing child benefits, hiring war veterans etc. HSS sticks to 22% VAT and strict fiscal responsibility. The talks would continue on Monday.

The pause is used by Zlatko Tomčić (Zlatko Tomcic) to make some extra pressure on his future partners. Less than a hour ago, he admitted that HSS is going through some rough internal debate and that there are elements within the party who are dead set against coalition with Sanader.

In other words, Sanader must be flexible, otherwise he would have to make some unpopular choices – either to share bed with HNS and Serbs, or soil it by going with HSP.

Račan (Racan) Had It Coming

Whether the last elections represents tragedy or blessing for Croatia is a question that would be answered in the future. Another thing is more certain – Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) should have very small of people to blame for his defeat, and he should start from himself.

The most obvious example of Račan digging his own grave is the decision to leave electoral legislation intact. Not only did he allow 3-4 diaspora seats for HDZ, but he kept some of the most blatant gerrymandering in the history of Europe – city of Zagreb being sliced into small districts, each having small urban base flooded with pro-HDZ rural vote. Like I wrote previously, in 2000 landslide that didn't matter; in 2003 electoral law itself gave at least 5-10 extra seats to HDZ. Račan was supposed to be aware of this, but he decided not to do anything about it, despite clear majority in Parliament. For this alone he should receive political equivalent of Darwin Award.

Few governments had such a clear and overwhelming mandate to make radical changes in national policies like Ivica Račan in 2000. Few parties were in such state of disarray like HDZ in 2000. But in only three years Račan managed to waste all of those disadvantages and allow political corpse of HDZ to come to life.

The reason for that is very simple – indecision, the trait inherited from the time when Račan used to be Party aparatchick. This trait, that allowed him to survive turbulent 1990s and emerge as the best hope of Croatian democracy, didn't serve him well once in power. He refused to take decisive steps even when certain policies, certain developments and certain individuals threatened his very own survival. Instead of decisive action, he preferred half-hearted measures and media spin to cover for such inadequacies. But the people saw through it – both those who were supposed to be his allies and those who remained his enemies. He alienated the former and emboldened the latter.

Of course, his disastreous handling of Croatia and shameful defeat of his party aren't reasons enough for him to step down. With SDP being second party in Sabor, he still clings to illusion that the Croatian people, when it gets disenchanted with Sanader in next three or four years, would select him to lead another change of government. Račan might be ultimate political survivor, but, judging by present situation, this seems beyond his abilities.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Fairytale Is Over

AS Roma equalised. There would be plenty of angry people on the streets of Split tonight. Cassano, who had scored in Rome, had done the same thing here - crushed Hajduk dreams mere minutes before the final whistle.


Nino Bule just scored against AS Roma in UEFA Cup game. With AS Roma having 1-0 from first leg, Hajduk Split currently has 50-50 chance to advance to next round.

Reality Rape

Anyone who has seen this morning edition of Croatian Big Brother knows that being reality show contestant isn't the easiest way to earn for a living. Story Supernova Music Talents contestants, on the other hand, can comfort themselves with a thought that their set seems to be safer working environment than this.

Everything By the Script

First few days after the elections, Croatian media was flooded with rumours, innuendos and contradictory statements.

Vesna Pusić (Vesna Pusic) first slammed SDP for "throwing the towel" and not trying to keep "left centre" coalition together with HSS, Pensioners and etnnic minority MSes. Only few days later Radimir Čačić (Radimir Cacic) allowed possibility of HNS and HDZ being in coalition "if anything else fails" (and prompted HNS spokespeople to use all their creativity to exlplain it).

According to many of those rumours, Sanader didn't have easy task in creating coalition. First, he received a call from Doris Pack, chief Tudjman's lobbyist in European Parliament. According to rumours (vehemently denied by HDZ), the word was: "If you form government with HSP, you can forget about any European integration". That limited Sanader's option towards very predictable HDZ + HSS + HSLS + DC combination which could be sold to the West as "moderate" centre-right government.

According to rumours, Sanader is going to pay hefty price in order to make that happen. First, HSS leadership was in turmoil after elections – many bosses expressed their distaste for coalition with HDZ and many blamed policy of going alone for bad elections results. A day later, a new rumour emerged, branding HSS and HSP together – rural populists and far right is going to act as new block, trying to get as much concessions from Sanader as possible. Even some of the more reliable allies of Sanader were not as reliable as believed, at least according to rumours – HSLS with its two MSes had expressed desire to remain in opposition, while DC, with a single (and barely) won seat required two ministerial posts.

But all those rumours came to nothing, at least for now. Sanader and Zlatko Tomčić (Zlatko Tomcic) met today, spent hour and half talking and agreed to form "expert teams" with the sole purpose of establishing whether their parties' economic platforms are compatible or not. In other words, those two parties are now discussing technicalities. HSLS and DC dispelled all rumours and pledged allegiance to HDZ. Sanader today received endorsements from two ethnic minorities MSes and pensioners from HSU party.

The only problem for Sanader represents SDSS. Milorad Pupovac denied rumours that Serb party would support Sanader in exchange for ministerial post.

So, everything is going smoothly, as by previously written script – "reformed" HDZ makes broad centre-right coalition and establishes its "reformed" credentials by having public support from ethnic minorities and ditching far right.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Addition to Blogroll

All About Latvia added to Blogroll.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Bad Role Models

I just hope that kids on Story Supernova Music Talents reality show - Croatian equivalent of Big Brother - won't follow the example of their Danish colleagues.

Mixed Signals

What kind of Sanader would rule Croatia? First 48 hours offer different clues and different answers to that question.

The biggest bombshell, although not entirely unexpected, came from Vojislav Stanimirović (Vojislav Stanimirovic), former leader of Serb rebels in Eastern Slavonia and current chairman of SDSS. He said that his party doesn't exclude possibility of supporting HDZ in eventual coalition government. Later in the day, Vladimir Šeks (Vladimir Seks) from HDZ said that his party doesn't exclude giving "ministerial post" to Serb representatives in future cabinet. If those speculations prove to be correct, it would be big step in right direction for Sanader. With it he could disarm all sceptics who still fear that his party had only superficial "post-Tudjman" makeover.

Of course, it wouldn't be the first time for HDZ and Serb nationalists to co-operate. After 1990 Tudjman offered seat of Sabor vice-Speaker to Jovan Rašković (Jovan Raskovic), future spiritual leader of Serb rebellion in "Krajina". During the war Tudjman even had his very own satellite Serb party in form of SNS (Serb People's Party), led by Milan Djukić (Milan Djukic), exiled Serb leader who would later become deputy minister of interiors (after 2000 he would become born-again Serb nationalist). HDZ and Stanimirović's SDSS had even created coalitions before, albeit on local and county levels.

Other signals aren't so reassuring. One nasty rumour describes how Sanader, after receiving initial returns, phoned offices of one of Croatia's daily newspaper and gave precise instructions what words to use on the front page of Monday edition. This practice is similar to the things Tudjman used to do with Croatian media during his reign.

Andrija Hebrang, one of HDZ leaders and former minister of defence, publicly floated idea of re-hiring Croatian Army generals and senior officers sacked by President Mesić (Mesic) in early 2001. Officers in questions were removed by Presidential decree following open letter in which they criticised government for co-operating with Hague Tribunal. Some of those officers are rumoured to be under investigation or even being secretly indicted by ICTY for alleged war crimes during 1991-95 conflicts. If HDZ supports Hebrang, it would destroy all credibility to the claims of HDZ being "purged" of questionable elements – instead of being purged, they would re-gain their positions.

"Nothing Against Jews, But…"

Marko Perković-Thompson, controversial folk-pop singer from Croatia who earned a lot of popularity and notoriety with his explicitly political songs, public statements and black wardrobe, was supposed to hold two concerts in Netherlands for Croatian expatriates.

But he didn't hold neither of them. One was cancelled and another featured only Thompson's band. Thompson himself was part of the audience until being escorted out of hall by Dutch police and public prosecutor.

Apparently, hall owners objected to Thompson being branded Nazi and being subjected to Dutch legislation that bans use of Nazi lyrics, uniforms and other insignia.

Vinko Šalov, concert organiser, blamed everything on hall owners being Jewish, while Thompson himself was even more explicit in his statement for Slobodna Dalmacija, blaming Jewish organisation CIDI for smearing his name. He said "I have nothing against Jews, but they crucified Christ and they can do it to a little man like me."

Whether Thompson's statement is explicitly or implicitly anti-Semitic, it would undoubtedly fuel anti-Semitic and anti-Dutch sentiments in Croatia. Apart from UK, Netherlands is only EU country vetoing treaties that should pave the way for eventual Croatian entry into EU. Those statements and whole scandal would also do little service for image of Croatia after the elections.

The most troubling aspect of this all is the huge fan base Thompson has in Croatia, and most of those fans being young people.

Monday, November 24, 2003

What Does It All Mean

Most of the world media talk about "return of nationalists" in Croatia, while some carefully talk about HDZ being "reformed, pro-European" or "purged from extremists suspected of atrocities during 1991-95 war".

I'm not optimist. This all looks like wishful thinking. After September 11th 2001 USA and the rest of Western world forgot about Balkans. Their governments consider all of the regional problems solved – Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo elected "moderate, pro-Western and democratic" governments in 2000, refugees are returning, borders are being open, market reforms are improving living standards, media is free from hate-speech, war crimes suspects are being handed over to Hague tribunal or tried in domestic courts, former warriors are becoming champions of peaceful cooperation etc. Whenever something happens that doesn't fit this rosy picture, it is ignored and disregarded as something of little or no importance. When guerrilla war continues in Macedonia, it is regarded as "glorified border smuggling". When Serbian prime minister gets gunned down, it is the "desperate act of small band of die-hard ultra-nationalists". When nationalists win in Bosnia (parties that dominate Bosnian national assembly are same ones that led country into the war) they are "reformed".

Why should victory of Ivo Sanader be treated any worse? Since his party replaced "pro-Western moderate democratic" forces on fair, free and democratic elections, it should too be regarded as "pro-Western and moderate", because everything else should indicate that West failed in Croatia between 2000 and 2003.

Of course, Sanader has groomed that image, helped by his foreign backers and domestic media cheerleaders, some of them being unjustly perceived as left-wing "liberals" (Denis Latin, one of Nacional columnists, once said that "if Sanader becomes democrat, he would be the best option for Croatia"). It wasn't hard to convince Western diplomats in Zagreb who took more pragmatic view of Sanader as "reformed" Tudjmanist, but in their vocabulary "reformed" meant "obedient" to the West. Namely, Sanader, unlike Račan (Racan), didn't have the baggage of Communist past and could do some very unpopular things – giving minority rights to Serbs, pursuing economic policies at the expense of Croatian agriculture, liquidating state-owned businesses that employ tens of thousands of potential voters, arresting Croatian war "heroes" and turning them over to Hague – much easier.

On the other hand, accepting that HDZ reformed merely because Sanader says so is luxury most Croatians couldn't afford.

First of all, when Sanader won the leadership of HDZ, the contest was very tight. The party was evenly split between his "reformist" and "die-hard nationalist" faction led by his arch-nemesis Ivić Pašalić (Ivic Pasalic). Furthermore, convention that gave victory to Sanader was held under suspicious circumstances. So, Pašalić faction either had close to 50 % of support or even more. Needless to say, they weren't purged. Minority joined Pašalić in his doomed HB project, but overwhelming majority remained within HDZ with little or no evidence that they changed their ways. Their decision to stick with Sanader was less motivated by ideology and more by very obvious pragmatism – Sanader not only allowed them to remain in party but also encouraged Pašalić supporters to defect from HB back to HDZ (some of those people did it days before elections).

Needless to say, the main and the only criteria for so-called "purge of compromised elements" within HDZ was lack of loyalty to Sanader. Ideology played very little part in it. Some of Sanader's staunchest supporters and partners were, like him, members of right-wing hard-line faction in Tudjman days. Some of them also have some unpleasant questions to answer in regards to some stuff that took place in areas under their control 1991-95 (armed takeover of independent newspaper, death threats to opposition members, people disappearing in the night, people of "wrong" ethnicity being discovered killed execution-style).

Another worrisome aspect of Sanader is the way in which he crushed dissent within HDZ. Tudjman's party might have "reformed" leader, but its structure is still authoritarian, based on the principle "one man, one party, one idea". This is principle adopted by many other Croatian parties; one of Tudjman's favourite practices –poaching opposition MSes and fermenting "patriotic" faction within opposition parties – resulted in legislation that turned all Croatian parties into authoritarian organisation. Sanader went on record saying that he would "put Croatia in order in the same way he has put HDZ in order". Anyone loving things like freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of thought should be worried by that statement.

Finally, Sanader was less than consistent in presenting himself to different audiences. When he talked to Western diplomats and Western journalists he tried to portray himself as reformer who has nothing against return of exiled Serbs to former "Krajina", who is for freedom of media, who is tolerant of different opinion, who would honour Croatian obligation towards Hague Tribunal even when it comes to turning over General Gotovina. But to his electorate, especially in more conservative and rural areas of Croatia, Sanader played different tune – one which resembled good old hard-line Tudjman's nationalism and authoritarianism. SDP leaders and their supporters fell short of being branded as "traitors" and any idea of co-operation with Carla del Ponte was branded as unforgivable crime.

What kind of Sanader is going to rule Croatia? His party would have one or perhaps few more seats of majority. It would be dependant on small parties, and some of those parties are either populist or even more to the right than HDZ. Economic policies of Račan's (Racan's) government would be continued, because they are outside Zagreb's control – all beautiful elections promises of lowered taxes, increased welfare benefits and re-hiring of war veterans into Croatian military and police are not going to be honoured. The only way for HDZ to make some difference is going to be cosmetic – increasingly nationalist rhetoric and increasingly hard-line stance towards minorities in Croatia in order to satisfy chauvinistic desires of HDZ electorate.

I hope I'm wrong. But previous experience taught me to take pessimistic approach towards Croatian future.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Latest Projection

Breakdown of seats won in "regular" districts:

HDZ – 62 seats
SDP (Libra & LS included) – 43 seats
HNS (PGS included) – 11 seats
HSS – 9 seats
HSP – 8 seats
HSLS-DC – 3 seats
HSU – 3 seats
HDSS – 1 seat

Disapora seats:

HDZ – 3 seats

Minority seats:

SDSS (Serb Democratic Independent Party) – 2 seats
SNS (Serb People's Party) – 1 seat
HSS – 1 seat
SDAH (Party of Democratic Action of Croatia/Bosniacs) – 1 seat
Independent candidates – 3 seats

There would be 151 seats. There are 76 seats needed for majority.

HDZ has 65 seats and requires 11 seats.

The most likely way for Sanader to form majority is to add HSS and HSLS-DC votes. That would give his party 1 seat majority. Not very stable, but definitely more desirable than combination that would bring far right HSP into the fold or even some minor players like HDSS or HSU.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Latest Changes

According to the returns published at 4:00 CET, there were slight changes in the breakdown of seats. HDZ lost 1, while HSLS-DC gained 1. Another interesting development is entry of HDSS, small party led by Ivo Lončar (Ivo Loncar), one of the most colourful members of 2000-03 Sabor.

Before 2000 Lončar used to be editor of agriculture show on Croatian state television. In one of his broadcasts he dared to criticise agricultural policy of HDZ and promptly got sacked for his efforts. That made him a martyr and HSS quickly used opportunity to field him as their candidate on 2000 elections. Once in Sabor, Lončar soon fell out with HDZ chairman and Sabor speaker Zlatko Tomčić (Zlatko Tomcic). He began siding with right-wing opposition and it doesn't take rocket scientist to conclude that he chose HDSS – (Hrvatska Demokratska Seljačka Stranka /Croatian Democratic Peasant's Party) – one of many HSS dissident outfits – as an expression of disdain for his former political mentor.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Interesting Bit of Trivia

Libra – party whose sole purpose was to keep HSLS MSes in government - won 3 seats. HSLS won only 2.

This is the first time, after many attempts, that the dissidents fare better than their original party.

[ELECTIONS 2003] "Tragedy for Croatia"

Damir Kajin, MS from IDS, would have all the reasons to be happy with today's elections, at least from strictly pragmatic standards – his IDS party has maintained the same number of seats as in 2000. But he doesn't like what happened with the rest of Croatia and he is most explicit in his sentiments. For him elections are "tragedy for Croatia" because they gave power to "ultranationalists and far rightists" that would "create gap between Croatia and Europe".

Sunday, November 23, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] Račan (Racan) Not Conceding – Florida Situation?

In less than a hour, as new data arrives, HDZ lost 3 seats and SDP gained 3 seats. Currently, right-wing coalition has 72 seats, while governing coalition has 68 seats – just as HRT opinion poll predicted on Thursday.

Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) held press-conference, claiming that "it's not over till it's over".

8 seats for reserved for ethnic minorities are filled. It now all depends on diaspora – seats reserved for Croatian expatriates.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Sanader Wins

Based on the GONG estimates and first data gathered by State Electoral Commission, Croatian voters have decided to bring back Tudjman's party to power. Ivo Sanader is going to become new prime minister of Croatia. His party failed to get absolute majority, but by winning 19 seats more than in 2000, and with at least 5-6 seats from pro-HDZ diaspora, it can comfortably create majority with its right-wing allies.

The complete breakdown is this:

Right wing - HDZ 65 seats, HSP 8 seats, HSLS 2 seats (I was right)

"Left centre" (governing coalition) – SDP 31 seats, HSS 12 seats, HNS 9 seats, IDS 5 seats, Libra 3 seats, LS 2 seats, PGS (Primorsko-Goranska County regional party) – 1 seat

Biggest surprise of this elections is HSU – Croatian Party of Pensioners. They won 2 seats.

According to GONG, turnout was below 65 %.

Sanader his post doesn't owe to himself but to Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan). Račan's government managed to alienate its voters with its Tudjmanism Lite policies. People who had walked in droves to polling stations on January 3rd 2000 decided to stay at home this time.

Račan also has himself to blame for not changing 1999 electoral law, with districts gerrymandered in order to give maximum boost for HDZ. In 2000 landslide it didn't matter that much, but in 2003 ignoring this problem was criminal negligence.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Red Split?!

According to "unofficial" sources within SDP, claims that Croatian ex-Communists won in city of Split. HDZ carried 10th Electoral District (Split and Southern Dalmatia) with 37 % of the vote, while SDP won 23 %.

"Unofficial" sources within HNS claim that HDZ got clobbered in city of Rijeka, ending on third place, behind SDP-IDS and HNS.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Turnout Low After All?

According to estimates, turnout is going to be around 65 %, which is close to the turnout on 1993 local/House of Counties elections, the lowest in modern Croatian history.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Exercised!

I've just exercised my civic right and cast my vote. It was relatively late – 17:00 CET, less than two hours before closing time - but the stream of people coming in and out of my polling station was steady. I asked official what the turnout was. They said it was around 60 – 65 %.

Since Split is slightly below national average, that means that the general turnout is most likely to between 70-75 %, which would be near historic levels.

I couldn't ask officials for the results, but the area covering my polling station was traditionally SDP country. I expect them to fare very well this time.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Turnout Higher Than Expected?

According to State Electoral Commission, until 11:00 CET there were 552,627 voters out of 3,578,715 registered has cast their votes. This is 21,19 %, which is somewhat lower than 24,08 % reported at the same time during last elections. It seems that the turnout is going to be higher than expected, which could be very good news for Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan). HDZ strategy was based on low turnout and disenchanted Račan's supporter staying home. Polls and predictions indicating tight race might have played much bigger role than expected – they could have energised the voters who were supposed to be discouraged by spiritless campaign.

Slitting Throats

Whatever you may say about Islamists, Baathits, terrorists or whoever is attacking US forces in Iraq, they aren't cowards. If this report is true, people behind it needed some major guts to pull it off. Killing people in such fashion – even unarmed civilians – requires perpetrator to come very close to its intended victim. When the victim in question happens to belong to mightiest military in world and is supposed to be trained for such emergency, perpetrators need more bravery and luck than skill.
Story of heroic resistance engaging US soldiers in hand-to-hand combat was too romantic to be true. New reports give much more prosaic and much grimmer picture – soldiers were first shot, then, as they were helplessly sitting in the car, became victims of "heroic" mob that slit their throat and took away watches, wallets (and perhaps even some bodily parts) for souvenirs. If someone had videotaped the incident, that would have been that mythical "Mogadisciu Moment" anti-war crowd yearns for.

Comparative Disadvantages

Ivana Radovniković (Ivana Radovnikovic) was one of my favourites in Story Supernova Music Talents. She has good voice, good looks and, based on what I have seen in reality show segments, seems to be much nicer and down-to-Earth person than titillating images created by Croatian media.

Unfortunately for her, all those qualities are overshadowed by some of her anatomical details. In some other areas of entertainment industry, those anatomical details would have been great asset. But for poor Miss Radovniković those assets turned into disadvantage when it came to last night's vote. She got booted out of competition mainly due to Story Supernova voting base being comprised of pubescent, pre-pubescent and adolescent girls who lacked Radovniković's assets and thus allowed their envy and prejudices to influence their choice.

Needless to say, Rafael "Rafo" Dropulić (Rafael "Rafo" Dropulic), the most annoying of all contestants (you should have seen faces of other contestants when they had to put up his antiques in reality show segments) won comfortably.

I hope that today's vote is going to be more to my liking.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] Terrorists Affect Croatia

Croatia wasn't directly affected by terrorism, but the explosions in Istanbul were different matter. Not only they were too close to home for Croatians to feel comfortable, but they also affected our country's electoral process. Acting on the recommendation by Foreign Ministry, State Electoral Commission has suspended voting in Croatian consulate in Istanbul.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Georgia On My Mind

Average Croatian voter probably won't pay much attention to dramatic events in Georgia. I think that is good thing, because spiritless elections between parties with identical political platforms and nearly same levels of moral integrity might not look like an ideal way to choose or change government.

Friday, November 21, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] Violence Continues

Campaign was exhausting for many, but it was unpleasant for some.

Few days ago, activist of SRP (Socialist Workers Party), small ultra-leftist outfit led by former and unreformed Communist ideologist Stipe Šuvar (Stipe Suvar), was attacked and stabbed with a screwdriver in city of Sisak while putting posters on the walls.

Candidate of BV-Treci blok, another small ultra-leftist outfit, led by former MS Vladimir Bebić (Vladimir Bebic), had his house torched in city in Sinj.

Denis Kuljiš (Denis Kuljis), former editor of Globus, was beaten by two attackers last night.

In the meantime, HSS chairman Zlatko Tomčić (Zlatko Tomcic) said that he had received letters threatening his and life of his family if HSS doesn't make coalition with HDZ after elections.

Considering huge possibility of tight and inconclusive result, weeks of haggling and electoral passion being inflated afterwards, I guess that post-election times in Croatia is going to be more violent than today.

[ELECTIONS 2003[ The Rest Is Silence

Today is the last day of the campaign. At midnight begins so-called "pre-elections silence" – parties are forbidden from holding rallies and running ads in the media. Only election news media is allowed to report are technical issues in regards to voting, turnout estimates etc.

All that is supposed to allow voters to make their minds without any distraction.

Parties, while they can, are flooding Croatian airwaves with propaganda.

I'm wondering whether to observe silence or break it. I think I'll go for the latter, more because I lack the inspiration than anything else.

Eat, Drink, Boy Girl

Nova TV has changed title of its Story Supernova Music Talents reality show into Big Brother. I wonder whether they had permission of Endemol Entertainment for doing this. I hope they did, because I really like it.

Although, most of the live shows deal with our brave contestants eating and drinking. This is not the show for those gentle viewers who are on diet or are financially incapable of providing food.

In tonight's segment they hosted Damir Kedžo (Damir Kedzo). The boy has been booted out of the whole music contest business, but reality show doesn't have to bother with such rules, to the utmost delight of his teeny bopper fan base.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Final Poll – Florida Scenario for Croatia?

Puls, Split-based polling agency and one of the most reliable in Croatia, has conducted the last opinion poll for HRT, Croatian state television. Results of the survey, conducted on the pool of 4000 potential voters all over Croatia, doesn't show much difference from other polls. Again, everything indicates very tight race with Račan's (Racan's) coalition and right-wing each ending with almost the same number of seats. Diaspora and minority seats are most likely to be kingmakers.

The only possible surprise are two potential seats for HSU – Croatian Party of Pensioners, organisation which is more of a lobby than real political party. It was usually close to Račan so this might good news for left-wing.

This final poll shows that SDP probably did the right thing by adding Libra and LS votes through pre-election coalitions. Sanader, who based all of his hopes on HSLS-DC going without him, is going to regret not taking Račan's (Racan's) example and allowing right-wing votes to dissipate to small parties that wouldn't pass 5% tresshold.

In any case, new government is going to very unstable. Even more worrying is real possibility that it would take weeks, if not months, before Croatians know the real winner of elections.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Bombings in Istanbul

I don't doubt that there would be many from the loonier segments of the world's Left who would start with conspiracy theories blaming Bush and his secret services for today's atrocity in Istanbul. With world's media focused on Turkish tragedy, widely-publicised spectacle of anti-Bush demonstrations in London is going to be completely squashed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Two For the Price of One

People behind Story Supernova really know their stuff. Not only they have managed to turn some meagre music talents contest into this year's greatest spectacle, they know how to milk it.

Six remaining contestants are put into luxurious villa at undisclosed location near Zagreb. Needless to say, villa is equipped with TV cameras that capture contestants' every move and four times a day Nova TV airs live reality show modelled after Big Brother.

Based on what I see right now, kids are having a good time. But once this whole circus ends, they would realise that the rest of their lives won't be private.

[ELECTIONS 2003] (Not) Outing Sanader

Few days ago Slobodna Dalmacija published an article about the war being waged on Croatian billboards or, to be more precise, different ideologies resulting in different treatment of political rivals' posters. In short, Croatian right-wingers have less scruples when it comes to abusing other people's posters. Left-wing or "left-wing" parties are most usual targets – HNS posters featuring CGI-beautified face of Vesna Pusić (Vesna Pusic) are being hit with graffiti that use words like "bitch", "whore", "c**t" or "rattlesnake"; SDP posters are "decorated" with phrases like "commies", "Serbs", "Chetniks" and "traitors".

Posters of right-wing parties, on the other hand, are left untouched… With exception of those featuring HDZ leader Ivo Sanader. In some cases, his face is decorated with graffiti that use words like "f***t", "n***y boy" and other Croatian expressions of homophobia.

As regular readers of this blog know, rumours about Ivo Sanader's sexual orientation aren't particularly new – they appeared long time, when Sanader used to be up-and-coming Young Turk of the Tudjman's party's right-wing faction. Later those rumours were being used by his arch-nemesis Ivić Pašalić (Ivic Pasalic) in the bitter factional struggle for control over HDZ.

Interestingly enough, SDP failed to use this opportunity, and homophobes who are "decorating" Sanader posters most probably belong to those on the farer right of Croatian politics – Pašalić's HB-HIP coalition and HSP. Those two parties are fighting for the same electorate with HDZ, and the battle is more bitter and with less gloves.

SDP, on the other hand, wants to keep this campaign as mild as possible and not demonise HDZ, because Sanader might very easily become Račan's (Racan's) coalition partner – that would be the simplest possible way to solve the post-election deadlock and would benefit both parties and their European ideological sponsors. Another reason why SDP doesn't use this weapon is desperate need to keep at least some tiny bit of ideological difference from Croatian right-wing – and that need reflected in aggressive (and counterproductive) attempts to push gay rights agenda. Adopting pro-gay policy and than attack main political opponent on the basis of his sexual orientation would have been too much of a hypocrisy even for ethical cesspool of Croatian politics.

Of course, rumours might be wrong (Sanader has wife and children), but truth never stands in the way of electoral campaigns, not even so spiritless and insignificant as this one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Story Supernova, Breast Size and Modern Hypocrisy

Teen pop stars today are implicitly, and sometimes even explicitly, presented as sex objects. Yet if someone dares to act upon such media suggestions, he is branded as sexist and primitive.

Latest victim of such hypocrisy was Miroslav Škoro (Miroslav Skoro), Croatian folk singer who recently gained enormous popularity by showing great wit while being in jury panel of Story Supernova Music Talents. During the last show he was appraising Ivana Radovniković (Ivana Radovnikovic) and couldn't resist mentioning the size of that young woman's mammary glands. He was immediately criticised in Croatian media for sexism and primitivism.

Talking to a teenager that might not be the most appropriate, but, then again, Radovniković brought that issue herself. She used to flash her sexuality before, first by informing Croatian public about tattoo on her butt and later by not confirming nor denying rumours about her breast being silicon enhanced. That kind of behaviour fits the description of the word "titillating".

Monday, November 17, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] Bad Serbian Omen

Today two of most influential Croatian daily newspapers – Jutarnji list and Večernji list (Vecernji list) – published conflicting results of two opinion polls. While Večernji list, which is perceived as opposition-friendly, claims that right-wing coalition is in tiny lead, Jutarnji list claims the opposite – Račan can expect very tight victory.

However, one indicator – Serbian presidential elections – show that right-wing might indeed greet November 23rd with more confidence. Low turnout is going to match Croatian (to some degree), while Serbian elections showed that right-wing voters tend to be more disciplined.

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Blogroll Problems

Someone has been messing with Blogroll service.
UPDATE: It seems that the problem has been solved, at least for now.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Historical Perspectives

Diana didn't like Master and Commander. Her biggest grievance was the fact that the plot, which takes place in 1805, portrays British as the Good Guys, while the villains are nasty, evil French. For Diana French-bashing in this film is motivated with current politics and represents insult to the history, since French and Americans happened to be allies at the time.

I never saw the film nor did I read Patrick O'Brian's novels (I'm currently trying to find time for the first one). However, I heard that Far Side of the World, 10th novel in the series, which served as basis for the film, doesn't feature French as the main villains. Bad Guys in the novel are Americans, and this is historically correct, because USA and UK used to be enemies in the beginning of 19th Century.

Diana falls victim to usual error of those who approach period films, novels and stories from strictly contemporary perspective. In case of USA, this happens because USA, unlike Europe, was more-or-less single political entity, never having to go through shifting alliances, uprisings and revolutions (with exception of civil war that Americans still refuse to call "American"). Americans, at least until the late unpleasantness, seemed to view France as something of a sister to their republic – French helped American Revolution and later Americans for inspiration to make their own; French and Americans were allies in two world wars - or three, if we count Napoleonic period.

As for French being villains of Napoleonic period, I tend to think that portraying Napoleon as 19th Century Hitler and British as noble saviours of Europe ("You would all speak French, if not for our boys at Waterloo") is little bit simplistic (and not in line with the facts – Wellington's butt at Waterloo was saved by black-clad goose-stepping Prussians led by insane militarist). But, then again, average Spaniard, Russian, German or Dutch would be more inclined to think in those terms – their countries were under brutal occupation and people there resisted just as some people under similar circumstances would resist in WW2.

To view 1805 Europe and world through 20th Century and 21st Century political perspective is wrong. In 1940s French were either "surrendering monkeys" or noble resistance fighters fighting superior enemy who occupied their country; in early 1800s they were greatest military power in the world, bent on global domination. Knowing how Hollywood likes to handle history in recent times, any film that doesn't shy away from facts that are alien to contemporary audience deserves at least some respect.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Bad Company

This election is not going to be won or lost on billboards, but Sanader's crew nevertheless made huge mistake by issuing new propaganda poster in which HDZ leader shares company with various European politicians, all endorsing his party as "pro-European".

The idea behind this poster (and corresponding TV ad) is to convince voters that HDZ victory wouldn't hamper Croatian chances for EU entry – something that SDP propaganda tried to imply in their campaigns. According to ads, Sanader has "his men" in EU institutions who would lobby for Croatian interests more efficiently than Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan).

This ad is going to more harm than good for Sanader. Trying to connect HDZ with few faces that mean nothing to average Croatian voters isn't going to win any votes. On the contrary, right-wing section of electorate might remember all rants about Račan's government selling Croatian banks and state companies to foreigners. And how Sanader is relying on? Foreigners! In exchange for what?

The most damaging about this ad is, of course, presence of Silvio Berlusconi. Considering his unpopularity in Europe, Berlusconi is political ad poison, and if Račan had some brains, he would quickly design counter-campaign using Berlusconi as his favourite weapon.

First of all, Berlusconi is perceived as crook. Sanader tried to sell his party as new, reformed and cleansed from "crooks".

Second, most of Croatians are dead set against war in Iraq. Sanader, on the other hand, wholeheartedly supported war. Berlusconi, apart from Blair, is most famous (or notorious) of all Croatian politicians supporting war in Iraq. Seeing Berlusconi's face on the ad, electorate is going to be reminded of Sanader's views.

Third, Berlusconi expressed his admiration for Mussolini and has post-fascists in his cabinet. By embracing Berlusconi, Sanader risks tying himself to Mussolini's main WW2 ally in this area. And in Dalmatia, where Sanader is from, Mussolini's main ally is forever associated with most shameful real estate deals. Whenever Sanader accuses SDP of "treason", Račan (Racan) could answer with Berlusconi's picture.

But Sanader has nothing to be afraid of, at least not from Račan (Racan) who dreams of HDZ as his ideal coalition partner.

K-Jo Booted!

Morbid curiosity led me to watch replay of last night's Story Supernova Music Talents. The months-long contest has entered into final phase and each week one contestant must be booted. Yesterday, to the surprise (and horror) of many, loser was Damir Kedžo (Damir Kedzo), young man who had recently started calling himself "K-Jo" and who had earned fame (or notoriety) by dumping his girlfiend in order to save her from death threats.

If I have to speculate about reasons why he lost, I would say that his fans didn't take his action as a sign of courage. Pandering to insane teeny bopper fan base in one thing, dumping woman who you are supposed to protect is another. Some would call him wimp. I would call him another name, which I won't use, because feminists among my blog readers would object.

On related note, I must confess that, despite not actually watching much of a show, I have favourites too. One is Nera Stipičević (Nera Stipicevic) from Makarska, another is Ivana Radovniković (Ivana Radovnikovic) from Zadar. Latter got my attention by interview in which she claimed that she had tattoo on her butt. Since I don't know why would anyone share that bit of intimate information to the public, I must hope that she would display that piece of art one day.

UPDATE: I've just found out that Kedžo was only 16 years old. That puts everything I wrote about him in completely different perspective. Phrases like "immature" and "irresponsible media" are more appropriate in this whole affair.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Soft on Crime

Croatia and Israel aren't the only countries where murderers, rapists and similar sorry excuses for human beings enjoy benefits of Mother Theresa's school of criminal justice. Czech Republic tried to improve this sad state of affairs, but, according to Petr Bokuvka, judicial establishment is still sticking with "humanist" principles.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Military Scandal?

According to defence minister Željka Antunović (Zeljka Antunovic), some 12 servicemen of Croatian armed forces are "active in electoral process". In Croatia active military personnel is banned from taking part in politics. Voting is their inalienable right, membership in certain political parties is something than can hide and making political statements is something in the eye of the beholder, running for office is something so blatant that even minister like Antunović is supposed to notice.

Antunović is "collecting data from State Electoral Commission" and announcing "eventual disciplinary proceedings that could end with dishonourable discharge".

I'm guessing, but servicemen in question are most likely to belong to minor right-wing parties or are supporting independent candidates of right-wing alignement.

Friday, November 14, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] Predictions

One week before the elections the only thing which is to a certain degree certain is HDZ winning biggest number of seats in Sabor.

It is less certain, but very likely that Sanader would fall short of necessary majority and that he would be bound to seek coalition partners.

Ideal partner for HDZ is supposed to be HSLS/DC, but despite their confident stance at the beginning of campaign, that coalition is the most likely to be remembered as the biggest loser of this election. Instead of 20-25 seats they expect, they would be happy to get anything over 5. So, HDZ would have to look for coalition partners elsewhere.

Polls suggest that HSLS/DC misfortune is going to become fortune of HSP. Sanader is, however, going to be rather squeamish about allying with far right party that had pictures of Pavelić (Pavelic) in their offices and their own black-clad party during war. Whole purpose of HSP, just like in Tudjman's days, is to make HDZ look moderate. Sanader is not going to jeopardise that.

Next obvious partner is HSS. Zlatko Tomčić's (Zlatko Tomcic's) party is probably going to win sufficient number of seats for comfortable majority for HDZ-HSS coalition. Ideologically, this coalition makes more sense, since HSS in some areas happen to be even more conservative and right-wing than HDZ, especially after Sanader's "European" make-over. But there are couple of pragmatic issues that would make this coalition very unstable. First one is increasingly anti-European sentiment among rural Croatians who happen to be HSS main electoral base. Another is fact that Tomčić could snatch concessions from humbled Račan (Racan) more easily than from over-confident and arrogant Sanader.

The combination least talked about and most feared is grand coalition between HDZ and SDP. Although both Račan and Sanader claim that they would rather stick in opposition than create this seemingly unnatural liaison, there are precedents for that outside (Austria) and inside Croatia (few small towns where administration is jointly controlled by HDZ and SDP). Both leaders probably have excuses for their party faithfuls – Sanader would appeal to "national reconciliation" between Ustashas and Partisans as the most important segment of Tudjmanist ideology; Račan would in the same time claim that "stable coalition" is necessary for Croatia to enter EU. This idea is being publicly floated by President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) who had extensive contacts with HDZ before.

In any case, Croatia is going to lose, because it would be deprived of credible opposition. And HDZ winning alone or without SDP is going to result in more of the same, but with enhanced chauvinist rhetoric

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Price of Fame in Croatia

I must admit that I never heard anything sung by Damir Kedžo (Damir Kedzo), but some people think that he has beautiful voice. In any case, in relatively little time he went from being nothing to being one of Croatia's greatest celebrities, all thanks to Story Supernova Music Talents.

Instant fame brought many privileges, but also many obligations. Kedžo had to satisfy enormous curiosity of his fans, and that included his love life. He not only stated that he had girlfriend but also posed to photographs with her.

That proved to be almost fatal mistake. In last instalment of Red Carpet, Nova TV's celebrity gossip show, he had to publicly state that he and his girlfriend had split up. The reason? Poor girl was flooded by hundreds and thousands of death threats coming from teeny boppers wanting Croatia's most beloved hunk for themselves.

This illustrates how celebrity culture can't properly function in countries like Croatia. Celebrities simply aren't allowed to have private life. Country is too small, everybody knows everybody and getting information necessary for stalking campaigns isn't that difficult.

[ELECTIONS 2003] New link

GONG, Croatian NGO dedicated to monitoring elections, has English link.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Italians Under Attack

Since Carabineri happen to be part of Italian military, today's attack is going to be remembered as worst Italian military disaster since WW2. However, I think that Italians are going to defy their historical reputation (as well as leftist opposition) and stay. "Bring the boys" home might seem like an attractive idea to some segments of Italian public, but the only effect of today's tragedy is to make some governments thinking twice about sending their troops in harms way. For Italians it is too late to change their mind, once their blood have been shed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Bad Good Girl

Using single individual as some sort of symbol for political purposes can always backfire, as Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) has learned after "Cro Cop" fiasco. Jessica Lynch seems to be another example. First we learned that she wasn't hero (at least not during the war; her finest moment came later), and now we learn that her conduct before those tragic events in Iraq wasn't as exemplary as propaganda wanted us to believe.

Of course, you really need to have Taliban-like mindset to treat her alleged flashing of mammary glands to fellow soldiers and major transgression, but this nevertheless shatters her perfect image.

Then again, her behaviour is not that atypical of for a teenager. Plenty of people do some really stupid and irresponsible acts at that age. Why should heroes be any different?

[ELECTIONS 2003] Someone Might Censor This Blog

Not me.

National Electoral Commission ordered all ISPs, network administrators and Internet forum moderators to prevent "unethical statements, threats and calls for violence" related to campaign.

The decision was brought due to HB complaint. They reacted to statement by Frank Bilaver, member of HDZ National Council, published on Imo Forum Croaticum. Bilaver obviously didn't like the fact that Colonel Mirko Čondić (Mirko Condic), disabled war veteran (and one of 2001 pro-Norac rally movement leader) – one of Croatian far right icons – decided to run on HB instead of HDZ ticket. According to HB complaint, Bilaver said that "Mirko deserved golden monument for all of his service in Patriotic War and he also deserved to be hanged on that movement for such betrayal".

Wonderful. Some Tudjmanist get carried away in turf war over right-wing electorate and now I have to wonder about what to write in this blog.

Technically, this blog might be considered to be a forum, due to comments service.

Monday, November 10, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] Ultimate Fight and Elections

If Račan (Racan) loses this election, strength of the opposition is going to be lamest and least credible excuse. He would lose because he made serious miscalculations.

One of these miscalculations was taking Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipović (Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic) on the ticket. From Filipović's point of view, that was wise decision – his place on the list is high enough to be secure even if SDP fares badly in 1st Electoral District. So "Cro Cop" is going to enjoy hefty Sabor salary for next four years and hefty Sabor pension for the rest of his life. He wouldn't have to risk his life and health in the rings any more. Being aware that even the minor slip-up can destroy athletes' career, taking new career in Sabor route was sensible decision.

Račan (Racan), on the other hand, probably didn't think that some of the more rabid Croatian right-wingers would rather support "Minotaur" – Filipović's Brazilian opponent in Sunday's Ultimate Fight match – than Croatian athlete. All that because they feel betrayed – "Cro Cop" was supposed to support HDZ, not "red devils".

Some on the left side of Croatian politics feel betrayed too. Feral Tribune savagely attacked not only Račan's (Racan's) decision to put "Cro Cop" on the list, but also some alleged 300,000 € being paid to Severina Vučković (Severina Vuckovic), Croatian "turbo folk" diva in exchange for her appearances on SDP rallies. Feral thinks that this reflects Račan's (Racan's) pandering to right-wing electorate by adopting their musical tastes and conservative machistic worldview shared by "Cro Cop". This U-turn corresponds with SDP not taking services of Croatian rock bands, unlike 2000 when Croatian rockers supported Račan (Racan), seeing him as their allies in cultural war with right-wing "turbo folk" musicians.

Whether Račan would succeed with this pragmatism is debatable. I think that taking "Cro Cop" was mistake, but not for ideological or ethical reasons. "Cro Cop" was supposed to become world champion before the elections and thus boost Račan's chances with his victory. With his defeat "Cro Cop" did the opposite. Croatian people don't like losers.

From Burka to Bikini

Feminists might not share my views, but I think that bikini is not the same thing as burka. This young lady is going to experience it first hand if she ever returns to her native land.

[ELECTIONS 2003] About TV Ads

I'm not covering this campaign as extensively as you might expect, so I haven't been able to catch all major parties' ads on national television. But some comparisons can still be made between those used by SDP, HNS and HDZ.

SDP uses young couple in bed. Young man asks the obvious question. Girl says "Yes" and picture dissolves into "Yes! For Croatia" – SDP slogan.

HNS, which got much criticism for using CGI to make its leader Vesna Pusić (Vesna Pusic) twenty years younger on its official campaign posters, has stolen visual concept from the TV ad used by SDP for 2001 local elections. The content is different, though – young red-headed girl drives bicycle on Zagreb street and repeats usual arguments against going to the polls ("They are all the same", "My little voice won't change anything") than changes her mind and says ("Guess what? I'll try my chances with HNS. They are less same than the others"). So far, this is most effective of all TV ads – it is directed to the young urban people – the most likely pool of voters of HNS. Aleksandra Kolarić (Aleksandra Kolaric) praised this TV ad in her column for

Unlike previous campaigns, HDZ reserved its negative campaign only for billboards. However, their positive campaign went to the other extreme – lacking any credible program behind their "Let's move Croatia" slogan, they used CGI technology to deify Ivo Sanader in a manner that is used in such places like North Korea. HDZ chairman literally glows from screen, plays basketball, lawn balling and high-fives his party faithful, trying to reconcile image of authoritarian leader and "cool" modern guy. However, I think that HDZ, just like HSS, might very well regret using that particular ad. Namely, after hearing some nasty rumours about Sanader's private life, the glances Sanader gives to male models in ad might have some hidden meaning.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] Beginning of Violence

Last night on the road between Karlovac and Zagreb a vehicle carrying Lovre Pejković (Lovre Pejkovic), director of Croatia's Exiles, Returnees and Refugees Administration, was ambushed. Three men in two cars forced Pejković's car off the road, approached it and punched Pejković in the face. Pejković is hospitalised and can't remember anything.

I would be very surprised if this isn't in some way politically motivated. In most likelihood, forces of radical right in Croatia feel emboldened by prospect of Sanader's victory and want to flex their muscles.

Another act of violence, although less severe, occurred in Imotski, Dalmatian town near border with Herzegovina. Only a day after large HDZ rally two SDP candidates – deputy prime minister Slavko Linić (Slavko Linic) and MS Marin Jurjević (Marin Jurjevic) – came to hold SDP rally. One of local right-wing sympathisers – 31-year old war veteran - greeted them with eggs before the actual rally. HDZ issued special statement denying any involvement with the incident.

[ELECTIONS 2003] First Time for Everything

Today was the first time I have ever watched Ultimate Fight and today was the first time Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipović (Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic) lost.

I must say that I'm little bit disappointed. I expected "Cro Cop" to win.

His defeat is going to be some sort of consolation for HDZ. Sanader's boys hate him for turning them down and joining SDP ticket. They even filed official complaint to State Electoral Commission claiming that the live airing of the fight on state television was breech of election campaign rules, because it gave unfair advantage to SDP.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Thus Spake Vuco

Election campaign is strange time, at least for those Croatians who use state television as the only source of information about upcoming elections. According to television, there aren't big or small parties – election law mandates media to treat each and every political party the same.

In case of state television that means that each and every party, coalition of independent candidates' list is supposed to get 45 minutes of air-time during which their representatives answer to set of questions about various issues. In case of Croatia, that means at least 100 or so different 45-minute shows that are supposed to be stuffed into programme. HRT scheduled those shows after well-publicised lottery.

Les than ten minutes ago one such show ended, displaying probably one of the more honest and more colourful candidates. Siniša Vuco (Sinisa Vuco), former rocker and current "turbo-folk" star of Croatia and few neighbouring countries, is running as the independent candidate (together with 13 other people) in 9th Electoral District.

Although I must confess that I haven't seen any other election show before, Vuco was very impressive, showing the best and worst of all amateur politicians – obvious inability to deal with serious issues and incredible confidence in providing simple answers to difficult questions. Needless to say, if he gets elected, Sabor is going to be much more colourful place.

One brave soul in Croatian cyberspace bothered to record wit and wisdom of Siniša Vuco:

"So, folks, see you in Trogir in a week"
(apologising to his fans over the concert he had to cancel in order to appear on the show)

"We shall pay our debts to pensioners through prostitution"

"That's difficult question. It is best to skip it."

"Solve the problem of bureaucracy? I'll send them all to public works"

"Tax policy? This is hard, much harder than singing… Čabo (Cabo), you tell something about taxes"
(Note – Marinko Čabo, former martial arts champion, is one of the candidates on his ticket)

"Like there won't be any war here in next 10 years… Are you serious, man?... There is going to be war, there must be a war"

"My final word? What do I know?"

Apart from this, he made quite a few good points, including some that seemed to be picked from my blog. And he would get my vote if he only had some glimmer of hope in breaking 5% threshold.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Four Tickets of Bad Taste

The most popular films in Split theatres between September 19th and October 26th 2003 (data published in Hollywood magazine, number of tickets sold in brackets):

1) American Pie: The Wedding (7065)
2) Pirates of the Caribbean (7061)
3) League of the Extraordinary Gentlemen (1940)
4) Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life (1557)
5) Bad Boys 2 (1257)
6) Hulk (1179)
7) The Identity (889)
8) Legally Blonde 2 (603)
9) Pinocchio (550)
10) Down with Love (492)

Only four tickets separated this town from big embarrassment. If four good citizens had somewhat better taste, Pirates of the Caribbean could have been the most popular film.

On the other hand, one non-US film (Pinnocchio) slipped into Top 10, although I don't think that it should be much comfort to those who had seen it.

"Whoever has compassion for the cruel will be eventually cruel to the compassionate"

Except in rare cases (that involve something to do with politics or people affected with un-Croatian DNA) Croatian judiciary, on average, believes in the kind word as the most efficient tool of criminal justice. Even the most serious offenders – rapists, drug dealers, murderers etc. – hardly spend more than five years behind bars. Despite having the law in its books for five years, Croatian courts only once used maximum penalty of 40-year prison – for the man who had misfortune of shooting judge together with his wife and wife's lawyer during divorce proceedings.

The more cruel and more vicious murder it is, the less likely the murderer would go to jail. Instead of issuing long sentences, courts' favourite method of keeping the most dangerous people from the streets is mandatory hospitalisation, and health workers in mental institution have a nasty habit of pronouncing such people cured only after few years. Few months ago city of Split witnessed the aftermath of such humane policy in most spectacular fashion – only four years after being convicted for gunning down and setting man alight, one individual caused havoc in one of Split's cafes. Police intervened and the hours-long stand-off ended with one policeman being stabbed and officially "cured" stabber being gunned down by policeman's partners.

It seems that Croatia isn't the only country suffering from Mother Theresa's school of criminal justice. Israel has the same problem, according to Imshin, Israeli blogger who is added to my blogroll.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Jessica Lynch – True American Heroine

I have a confession to make. I self-censored this blog, trying not to make it more inflammatory.

The occasion were few comments in Croatian newsgroup regarding Jessica Lynch's rescue. Needless to say, most Croatian were against war in Iraq. Large number of Croatians are still against American presence in Iraq. Some express those opposition using the same rhetoric against Americans that was once used against Serbs.

Following Jessica Lynch's well-publicised resuce, many of them used words like: "I hope that Iraqis at least did number on that ****".

Now it seems that Iraqis apparently "did a number" on her.

I must admit that I used to treat any claims of Jessica Lynch being "American heroine" as nothing more than cheap propaganda. But now I understand that Jessica Lynch is real heroine.

Not because she was good soldier, and definitely not because of the mere fact that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

She is heroine because she admitted to the world that she was human being after all. That requires strength and character few people in this world posses.


Diana, who returned to blogging, has few interesting thoughts on the subjects.

Another BBC Poll

Although I can't fail to notice that majority of films on this list were made in past decade (which is easy to explain – passage of time erases bad memories and makes distant past better than it actually was), I'm confident that this represent tiny glimmer of hope for humanity.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

New Discovery

Maria Falconetti. Ingrid Bergman. Milla Jovovich. Lelee Sobieski.

That long list of notable names has another promising addition – Virginie Comte. She played Joan of Arc in the episode of Warrior Women, documentary series hosted by Lucy Lawless and recently aired on Discovery Europe. It is strange to see television documentaries with historic subjects being increasingly dependent on recreations, thus being good opportunity for some promising acting talent.

Virginie Comte was, for example, much more convincing in her role of Joan of Arc than Milla Jovovich in Luc Besson's film.I hope that this brief appearance might lead to much bigger roles.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Censorship In Action

Based on everything I have read and based on my own experience with Hollywood and its treatment of history, I think that I would probably share opinion of all those who consider Reagans to be politically motivated hatchet-job rather than serious attempt to recreate history.

CBS executives are, in most likelihood, quite right to consider the mini-series as biased.

Yet, pulling the mini-series off the air is even bigger mistake than making it. Even if the series offends political sensibilities of large sections of American audience, denying them opportunity to feel offended is even greater offence. This way, Reagans would only receive more fame than actually deserves.

Interestingly enough, leftist Democrats who are up in arms over CBS censorship and express concerns about this case being precedent for future limitations of free speech via political pressure, were conspicuously quiet when CBS altered the content of Hitler: Rise of Evil in order to silence Jewish critics, concerned over alleged portrayal of German dictator as "too human".

Croatian Snow Queen To Rest

These days are difficult for Croatian sport. Janica Kostelić (Janica Kostelic), one of our country's most celebrated sports icons and woman who defied injuries that would shatter careers of American football top stars, is not going to participate in this year's ski season, at least if she listens to her doctors. It is really sad not to see Janica back on the slopes – she was one of rare good news for Croatian people in past few years.

RIP Slavko Šajber (Slavko Sajber) 1929-2003

Those who used to follow Croatian (and former Yugoslav) sport in good old times would probably remember Slavko Šajber (Slavko Sajber), Communist-era chairman of Yugoslav Football Association whose valiant attempt to clean the cesspool of match fixing following the final day of 1985/86 season led to crisis and political brouhaha that would serve as a model for more serious stuff in years to come. Šajber's brave annulment of last day's matches made him hero for some (supporters of Hajduk Split and Red Star Belgrade) and villain for others (Partizan Belgrade and Dinamo Zagreb). Soon afterwards Šajber was subjected to incredibly vicious smear campaign in Belgrade press, with some of the articles even mentioning his Jewish origin – tiny manifestations of proto-anti-Semitism that would serve as model for similar propaganda campaigns in wars to come. Šajber's decision was finally overruled by Belgrade Associated Labour Court and Partizan Belgrade became winner of 1985/86 season.

Soon after that Šajber lost his post and the country whose soccer federation he led ceased to exist.

Šajber recently reappeared on Croatian headlines – first by being one of rare Croatian Jews to openly criticise Israel's policy towards Palestine and later for his unapologetic defence of Tito as great statesman and benefactor of Croatian people (and other peoples in former Yugoslavia).

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] Unnatural Liaisons

So many things to blog about, so little time.

State electoral commission is going to publish candidates' lists tomorrow. Some data has already leaked – on average, there are 34 candidates to Sabor seat available; average age of candidate is 46; there are 25 % women among candidates.

The most interesting name on those lists is aforementioned Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipović (Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic), Croatian ultimate fight champion and one of country's greatest celebrity. His presence on SDP ticket has been subject of today's commentary by Branko Vukšić (Branko Vuksic), news editor of Nova TV. Vukšić, whose evening news show represents dismal disappointment compared to its Croatian state television counterpart, has recently introduced commentaries as a way to improve poor ratings (and possibly serve as right-wing's propaganda tool during elections). In those commentaries Vukšić tries to keep some kind of equal distance between government and opposition, but in recent two he had attacked SDP.

For Vukšić idea of putting "Cro Cop" on SDP ticket is ludicrous and represents nothing more than cheap and cynical way to gain few votes by exploit celebrities at the expense of their own ideological constituencies. Vukšić claims that "Cro Cop", just like most of Croatian professional athletes, is a right-winger who has nothing to do with left-wing party like SDP. In order to illustrate his point, he claims that SDP supports gay marriages, while "Cro Cop" went on record by saying that "he had seen homosexual act and felt sick for next three days". Hence, SDP supports gay marriages and belong to left wing of Croatian political spectrum, and "Cro Cop" is homophobic and belongs to right-wing.

Vukšić's line of reasoning might look correct only to those who don't follow Croatian politics very carefully.

First of all, SDP (nor any major Croatian party, at least to my knowledge) never supported gay marriages. What SDP supported and what SDP pushed through Sabor was introduction of same sex unions, which by legal definition aren't marriages and don't require any kind of ceremony and specific legal documents.
This is something that was brought in Sabor with the sole purpose of making Croatia look "progressive" and more "European" than Serbia, and thus making Croatian chances for EU entry likelier. Public displays of this new pro-gay policy – like hapless minister of interiors Šime Lučin (Sime Lucin) being the most noticeable participant of Zagreb Gay Pride parade - were nothing more than Račan's (Racan's) desperate attempt to find something that would set apart his party from HDZ. In everything else – foreign policy, economic policy, law enforcement, minority rights – Račan simply continued with late Tudjmanist legacy.

If the idea was to gather some gay, far left of socially liberal vote, it failed. Most of Croatian gays are probably going to dismiss any link between their sexual and political orientation. Far leftists feel betrayed by Račan (Racan) and see no difference between him and Sanader. Social liberals represent tiny and next to insignificant fraction of the electorate, which is more loyal to nominally "centre" parties like LS, HNS and Libra (two of which – LS and Libra – have been co-opted into SDP electoral tickets).

Real electoral base for SDP lies among urban pensioners – people whose understanding for "alternative lifestyles" is going to be same as those of typical supporters of HDZ and right-wing parties.

Another Vukšić's fallacy is describing SDP as "left wing" party. Terms like "left" and "right" are next to meaningless in modern Croatia, and word "left" is used for SDP out of convenience, and partly in order to remind people of that party's Communist past.

On the other hand, Vukšić is also wrong when he describes "Cro Cop" as right-winger. "Cro Cop" indeed might have right-wing views, which is quite natural for professional athlete and policeman; but having right-wing views is nothing particularly odd for SDP, whether its members or supporters.

Furthermore, "Cro Cop" might indeed be revolted by the sight of "homosexual act", but that doesn't mean that he is homophobic. He never said what that "homosexual act" was and under which circumstances he saw it. It is perfectly possible for someone to tolerate homosexuality and even support equal rights for homosexuals, while in the same time disliking its physical manifestations (this is where whole concept of "privacy of their own rooms" comes into play).

Even if "Cro Cop" is indeed homophobic, that doesn't mean anything. But commentators using his alleged homophobia as a way to discredit Račan (Racan) only shows how meaningless and issueless this campaign has become and how little difference exists between Croatian "left wing" and "right wing.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Downed Helicopter

Correct me if I'm wrong, but in terms of fatalities today is so far the worst day for US military since the start of Iraq invasion. For many, especially on American left, the downing of helicopter could be that long-awaited "Mogadisciu Moment", after which US public's demand for "bringing boys home" would prove to be irresistible.

However, I don't think that this incident would result in the repeat of Somalian scenario.

First of all, unlike slaughter in Mogadisciu ten years ago, large number of US fatalities won't be much of a shock to American public. Nor would downing of US helicopter look that unexpected – guerrillas were trying to pull similar stunt for months, they only got lucky this time. And triple digit number of US soldiers killed before today did prepare US public for some unpleasant truths about fighting wars.

Furthermore, unlike in Somalia, USA simply can't afford to quit Iraq for all kinds of military, strategic and political reasons. Even if some ultra-lefty "peacenik" becomes US President, US soldiers are still going to remain in Iraq and continue to die in incidents like this one.

Instead of Mogadisciu, better analogies should made with Russian experiences in Chechnya. One day rebels managed to down Russian helicopter and kill between 80-120 soldiers. This is at least ten times more than today, but Russians nevertheless stayed in that quagmire. For them, just like Americans in Iraq, staying in Chechnya is least bad of many bad options.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Well-Behaved Sabor in the Making?

It takes a while for some aspects of modern democracy to take hold in Croatia, but at least Sabor adopted some traditions well-observed in West European parliaments. Some of those customs involve fistfights between representatives. HDZ, whether in majority or opposition, gave the greatest contribution to that phenomenon – their representatives were usually those to start fights with MSes.

However, in next Sabor, whether in majority or opposition, HDZ MSes would have to think twice before engaging in any serious altercations. SDP managed to enlist Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipović (Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic), martial arts expert and one of Croatia's biggest sports celebrities, as their candidate in 1st Electoral District. The district covers city of Zagreb and Flipović is No. 3 on the list, thus all but having his Sabor seat secured.

We can only imagine what would happen if someone tries to start fight in next Sabor.

Filipović might be nothing more than a celebrity addition to troubled party's ticket and, once in Sabor, he may follow Dijana Čizmadija's (Dijana Cizmadija's) example and remain silent for all time, but, unlike Čizmadija's, his presence alone is going to serve some useful purpose.