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.


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