Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Blogroll Additons

Tobias Schwarz, German blogger and regular contributor of A Fistful of Euros, is new addition to my blog.

I also discovered blog of Georgy Russell, one of the prettier candidates in Californian recall election.

Real Bugging Scandal

While HDZ still fails to provide credible evidence of illegal wiretapping of its premises, other people in Croatia are more successful in discovering such illegal practices and putting those responsible behind bars, at least temporary. Miroslav Dorešić (Miroslav Doresic), former deputy minister of education and sport, was recently arrested and charged for illegal wiretapping. The victim was Sunčica Findak (Suncica Findak), Croatian state television reporter and Dorešić's ex-girlfriend. In last month or so Dorešić subjected Findak to threats, blackmail, wiretapping and various privacy violations, which all escalated in intimate pictures of Ms. Findak being published in one of Croatian newspapers.

In some other times this scandal would become the media story of the year, but in 2003 it is most likely to be drowned in the flood of presumably more saucier stories released during election campaign.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

More About Total Recall

According to CNN poll, the recall race has been reduced to a very simple choice between Davis and Schwarzenegger.

On a related note - did anyone notice that Gray Davis somewhat resembles Ronny Cox, the actor who played chief villain (and Schwarzenegger's character enemy) in Total Recall?

You Know You Read Too Much History…

…when you watch final game of Women's Volleyball European Championship between Turkey and Poland and battle of Kahlenberg is always on your mind. On the other hand, Turks have few opportunities to be so thoroughly trashed by Poles these days.

[ELECTION 2003] Bridges of Croatia

Just like in Yugoslav times, Dubrovnik is most popular tourist destination of Croatia. Most foreign tourists who come to Dubrovnik tend to do it by plane or boat (and they usually leave it that way). Because of that, they aren't aware of something that bothers at least some Croatians who live in Dubrovnik or travel there by business.

In 1718, following its defeat in war with Austria and Venice, Ottoman Empire ceded large chunks of its Dalmatian possessions to Venetians. That left Ottomans virtually with no Adriatic Coast north of Bay of Kotor. There were only two exceptions – small strips of land around River Sutorina (between today's Prevlaka in Croatia, and Hercegnovi in today's Montenegro) and one northern strip of land near city of Neum. Purpose of those strips were to serve as buffer zone between Venetian and Dubrovnik Republic and thus secure peace in that part of the world (which they successfully did until Napoleonic Wars).

Ottoman-era borders of Bosnia-Herzegovina were later used by Austria-Hungary and Tito's Yugoslavia for administrative purposes. In early 1950s Bosnia-Herzegovina ceded Sutorina to Montenegro in exchange for some mountains in hinterland. Neum, sleepy small town between mouth of River Nertva and Pelješac (Peljesac) Peninsula, remained Bosnian.

After dissolution of Yugoslavia, Neum suddenly became very annoying spot for any Croatian nationalist – a permanent reminder that Tudjman's dream of Greater Croatia became a dream. Any time a Croat has to drive to Dubrovnik, he has to pass through border crossing and remind himself that he is in another country. If, by some strange twist of luck, Croatia becomes part of EU, travel through Neum corridor is going to become even more annoying thanks to increased immigration, customs and other controls.

But Croatians travelling to Dubrovnik wouldn't have to worry, at least if Sanader and his boys win next elections. During yesterday's rally in Split Sanader promised that the new government would start building few kilometres of bridge connecting Pelješac with Croatian mainland, thus allowing Croatian motorists to visit Dubrovnik without having to cross border.

This plan might look appealing at first sight, but HDZ governments used to build bridges in the past and their record is discouraging. First, this would be the most expensive construction effort in history of post-war Croatia and Croatian foreign debt is most likely to be higher than current 20 billion US$ after it. Second, projects of this kind tend to attract criminal activities on all levels, including ministers.

Maslenica Bridge, most spectacular construction project of Tudjman's era, is today known as the symbol of corruption - location of the bridge was chosen in such way to make it longer and thus provide higher price tag for construction company connected to minister Jure Radić (Jure Radic); because of that Maslenica Bridge (unlike the old bridge, destroyed in 1991), is at the mercy of strong winds that tend to close it every now and then, creating traffic collapse in Dalmatia.

I don't know whether Sanader's proposed bridge is vulnerable to strong winds and high seas and there is only one way to know for sure – the way Croatian voters on November 23rd 2003 would be wise to avoid.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] End of Journey

Zdravko Tomac transformed from staunch supporter of Yugoslav federal unity in 1989 into born-again Croatian nationalist in 1991. There were tens of thousands of people like him in Croatia at the time, but few held such important positions as Tomac, Communist League of Croatia chief ideologist. Even fewer chose to go through such radical transformation while remaining in the same party.

For Tomac this transformation proved to be beneficial, because in 1991 he held a ministerial post in war-time National Unity cabinet where he excelled in his criticism of free media and savage attacks on human rights organisations "telling lies about Croatia"; because of that Tomac briefly enjoyed reputation of a ex-Communist being more right-wing than many members of Tudjman's party. However, Tomac soon returned to opposition, but he still held #2 post in his old/new Party, giving nationalist credentials to Račan (Racan), former Yugoslav apparatchik who would otherwise perish during the dark days of 1991-92. For his services, Tomac was rewarded in 1997 with nomination for Croatian president; savage HDZ attacks during campaign only brought him votes from opposition-minded electorate and thus helped SDP to establish itself as the leading opposition party three years before next parliamentary elections.

2000 – biggest triumph of Tomac's party – was beginning of the end for Tomac. When Budiša (Budisa) lost to Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) at the presidential elections, Tomac lost with him, being Budiša's electoral campaign chief manager. After that Tomac got marginalised by Račan, who now didn't need increasingly annoying and over-ambitious partner. Tomac finally became aware of that only after seeing his sister being replaced from important SDP function and him not being able to do anything about it. Tomac tried to depose Račan by allying himself with Račan's chief rival and Milan Bandić (Milan Bandic), powerful leader of SDP Zagreb organisation. Those efforts failed and Tomac today announced his departure from SDP. He announced that he would take part in next elections on the ticket of relatively obscure party called Forum Hrvatske Sloge (Croatian Unity Forum).

Račan commented departure of his former chief ally by saying "Tomac was departing SDP for a long time. His journey has come to an end."

How fitting.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Bugging "Scandal" Continues or Bugging "Scandal" Explained?

HDZ continues to shoot itself in the foot with the whole "bugging" brouhaha. The latest in the series of contradictory and unconvincing claims came from HDZ when they tried to counter media speculations about real reason why listening devices allegedly found in HDZ Sabor offices had been so tiny and apparently self-destructible, according to Vladimir Šeks (Vladimir Seks). Some columnist attributed those claims to Šeks' problems with alcohol.

HDZ reacted by releasing video of technicians founding some strange artefacts in that party's Sabor offices. No dates were available on the tape nor the press had any opportunity to see those devices for real. Instead they were presented with "copies of those devices", apparently bought in the nearest hardware store.

I'm not convinced and I doubt that Croatian public is going to be convinced either. In a lame attempt to score cheap political point, Sanader, who had been hailed as "modern" and "serious" politician has managed to lead his party to its biggest PR fiasco since 2000 elections. It is too hard to tell where this scandal would end and whether it would have any effect on upcoming elections. My guess is that the voters would have other things on their mind.

In the meantime, Feral Tribune published the story that offers some rational background for the story. According to Sanader, the story of wiretapping came from some opposition politicians who had seen part of their telephone conversations in police files. Those politicians are now believed to be DC leaders Mate Grani? (Mate Granic) and Vesna Škare-Ožbolt (Vesna Skare-Ozbolt). According to Feral sources, their conversations were recorded during police surveillance operation against Goran ?ehobaši? (Goran Cehobasic), Osijek businessman who has recently been arrested and brought to stand trial for bank fraud. ?ehobaši? was apparently very close to DC leaders and used to be their party's donor.

MPAA In Action

While not trying to bring Hollywood's censorship standards to 1950s levels, MPAA is also making sure that only big studios win "Oscars" and other prestigious awards.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Evil Serbs Did It

One of the best known war-time graffiti on the streets of Split claimed that Serbs, and not drugs, were responsible for the premature death of Jim Morrison. That piece of Split's history is washed long time ago, but I remembered it while reading some blogs speculating that Milošević (Milosevic) or Serb nationalists had something to do with murder of Anna Lindh. According to those speculations, Lindh became target due to her stance during Kosovo crisis.

Those speculations are probably only speculations, but it turns out that those speculations weren't that far-fetched after all.

Ruined Historic Event

Yesterday was important day in Croatian history. For the first time (according to my knowledge) two weblog writers met on Croatian soil in person. Geoff Goodfellow visited city of Split during his stay in Croatia, so it was good opportunity to have few drinks and exchange blogging experiences. This meeting coincided with Split Film Festival, so I thought that it would be good thing for Geoff, who also expressed some interest in cinema, to accompany me during few screenings.

That proved to be huge mistake. To say that the Festival was poorly organised would be an understatement. There was discrepancy between the programme published in daily newspaper and what was really shown in three of Split's cinema theatres. Then it turned out that one of the screening rooms didn't have enough seats nor any ventilation. Then it turned out that one of the films wasn't subtitled/dubbed in Croatian (or English, for that matter)…

So, what was supposed to be great historic event turned into major fiasco. I wonder what Geoff would write about the whole experience. He made few suggestions what I should write about Festival, but I think that more sensitive readers of this blog won't appreciate the exact wording.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Useless Idiots

For most of 1990s many members and sympathisers of Democratic Party try to convince people that Republican in White House represents fate worse than death. However, once it happened, only a fraction of them took those views seriously and now, with Wesley Clark emerging as unstoppable Bush-busting machine, most take the pragmatic and realistic approach to those issues.

Unfortunately, history gives many examples of people starting to believe their own propaganda. One such individual came to the most logical conclusion of based on the results 2000 US presidential elections – any country that elects someone like George W. Bush as its leader has forfeited its right to exist (at least in presently recognisable form).

Thankfully, I live in a country where having your party in opposition might be unpleasant, but not unpleasant enough for people to take such radical remedies to their plight.

Arnold Debating

Last night I watched glimpses of the debate. Schwarzenegger left good impression, although not as good as Bustamante and McClintock. But I don't believe that the debate itself would have some profound effect on the recall race, at least not in the short term. Schwarzenegger, however, might be pleased with the results – he stood his ground, was relaxed and disarmed the sceptics who had doubted his ability to engage in political debates.

[CONTENT WARNING] If You Are Easily Offended…

…and if certain images might easily insult your religious or aesthetic sentiments, than I strongly suggest that you skip this news story.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

No Grave Digging Tonight

Hajduk has managed to squeeze 1:1 against Grasshoppers in the first leg of the 1st round of UEFA Cup. With such result and with 2nd leg being played at Poljud Stadium in Split, Hajduk have good chances of entering 2nd round. So I doubt that any disgruntled fan would visit Poljud Stadium tonight.

[ELECTIONS 2003] So Tiny…

Sabor began its last session today with a question hour that degenerated into shouting match between HDZ and MSes belonging to Račan's (Racan's) coalition. The "debate" started thanks to Marin Jurjević (Marin Jurjevic), SDP MS who asked government to tell him about alleged wiretappings of HDZ – a more than subtle attempt to ridicule Sanader and his claims.

It was also opportunity for HDZ to present some evidence or at least make some of the charges more specific. Sanader so far told about "credible information" provided by "member of another opposition party" and "friend of a friend who works in intelligence circles".

Sanader's chief ally and Tudjman-era "hawk" Vladimir Šeks (Vladimir Seks) was more specific. He announced that HDZ had discovered listening devices in the offices belonging to that party's caucus. When asked to show those devices, Šeks said that the "device was so tiny that it disintegrated upon removal".

To say that all those "explanations" put HDZ claims in question would be an understatement. I really don't know what they are trying to do. Either they have some Watergate-style "smoking gun" under their sleeve, or they are attempting damage control following Sanader's careless statements. In any case, current HDZ leadership is starting to look ridiculous and some of that is going to rub even among their supporters.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

If Blogging Gets Light These Days…

…it is due to a film festival being held in Split this week.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Sanader Backtracks

Mladen Bajić, Croatian chief prosecutor, reacted to Sanader claims of wiretapping like any conscious public official would do. He asked HDZ leader to come to his office and provide him with evidence.

Sanader publicly reacted that he didn't have any evidence. He simply "quoted Račan himself" and "heard rumours about secret police wiretapping foreign diplomats". He later "assumed, based on some conversations, that the same practices would be directed against opposition".

In other words, Sanader doesn't have any shred of evidence that HDZ was subjected to illegal surveillance and wiretappings by Croatian government.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

So, it seems that Wesley Clark used to hang out with the wrong crowd. Interestingly enough, when I thought of his candidacy, that little episode completely slipped from my mind. People tend to suppress bad memories, and I'm not an exception.

With poll numbers showing that Clark could beat Bush in 2004, many people in blogosphere are rallying around the new champion of anti-Bush cause. So, any attempt to point towards some questionable chapters of General's life and thus put in question his saintly image is nothing more than "smear" tactic.

I agree that the incident in question shouldn't be given too much importance. But it nevertheless puts General in bad light, at least in this part of the world. Image itself is enough to make many people in Bosnia and Croatia cringe. Not even the British and French – people usually accused to be pro-Serbian during 1991-95 conflict – haven't got that far in fraternising with Bosnian Serbs. Clark, whatever his motives were, expressed serious lack of judgement and diplomatic sense. And with character like that in White House, the world is not going to be much safer place than it is now.

Monday, September 22, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] Rural Solutions For Urban Problems?

Luka Trconić (Luka Trconic), one of HSS leaders, has proposed new legislation designed to reform City of Zagreb administration. According to proposal, City Council would be composed of two chambers – one elected by voters on city level, and another composed of delegates appointed by special city district assemblies.

This proposed federalisation of Zagreb is HSS attempt to woo Zagreb voters who feel increasingly alienated from city administration, dominated by two feuding parties - SDP and HNS - and two feuding factions within one of those feuding parties – Račan (Racan) loyalists and SDP right-wingers led by charismatic Party boss and former mayor Milan Bandić (Milan Bandic).

Zagreb City Administration recently got under intense public scrutiny following spectacular protests and sit-ins in few Zagreb neighbourhoods. Local populations didn't like plans to have some of their parks replaced by luxury residential-commercial buildings and accused administration of being under influence of shady construction entrepreneurs and issuing building permits without proper documents, legal requirements and, last but not least, a single word with the people in local neighbourhoods.

HSS obviously hopes to profit from those affairs, but its past history leaves much to be desire. HSS, being a rural party, usually fared very bad in Croatian capital – the most urban of all Croatian electoral battlegrounds. Then again, some areas of Zagreb are more rural than others and HSS might establish something of a base at least in some neighbourhoods. If their proposed federalisation becomes a law, they might even have their representatives in Zagreb city government – something they failed to get on last local elections.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Poor Sanader

Yesterday Sanader visited Rijeka and announced his own great 2003 expectations. He claims only that HDZ would win next elections, but that his party would triumph even in VIII Electoral District. To say that this expectation is optimistic would be understatement – HDZ was being regularly pummelled by voters in Istria/Rijeka region since first democratic elections. Seeking victory in VIII Electoral District and directing resources there is a folly similar to Dubya's attempt to carry California during 2000 US presidential elections.

Sanader, however, despite all of his arrogance, didn't fail to give impression of crybaby. He complained about HDZ and journalists being "under secret surveillance and wiretaps", all "in the interest of SDP and HSS".

If Sanader's accusations were true, this would only represent continuation of Tudjman's policies. But, unlike today, opposition leaders and independent media in Tudjman's years had plenty of evidence about secret police's clandestine and illegal activities directed towards them. Without giving evidence Sanader only looks pathetic with his attempt to win sympathy vote from Croatian right-winger as some kind of martyr. This doesn't fit his self-imposed image of unstoppable Račan-busting machine.

No Sunday Shopping In Slovenia

Croatian northern neighbour is more relaxed about direct democracy and they held second referendum in a year (following the decision to join NATO and EU). This time referendum was organised by labour unions and its aim was to limit the work of grocery shops to only ten Sundays per year. With some 30 % turnout referendum labour unions won with 60 % of Slovenians voting "yes" and 40 % voting "no". Slovenian Parliament will have to pass adequate legislation in a year.

This decision is going to be huge boost to Catholic Church in Croatia and its initiative to ban grocery shops from working on Sundays. Its impact on Croatia is also going to be more direct – most of supermarket chains in Croatia are owned by Slovenian firms who make enormous amount of business, at the expense of convenience stores – owned by local businessmen. Those Slovenian firms are already announcing major layoffs in Slovenia but some of their resources are going to be transferred to Croatia, where they could expect to compensate some of the losses by Slovenian cross-border weekend shopping.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] Great Expectations

Saturday is traditionally day when Croatian political parties hold rallies, conventions, important conferences and media events. Yesterday was a good opportunity for party leaders not only to remind Croatian electorate of their own importance (or mere existence) before upcoming elections, but also for them to express their own election results estimates.

Dražen Budiša (Drazen Budisa) and Mate Granić (Mate Granic) seem to be most optimistic of them all. They have recently made deal and their respective parties – HSLS and DC – would go to the polls united on the joint ticket (or joint tickets in all of 10 districts). For those two such deal looks like a triumphal achievement in itself and they expect some 20-25 seats and third strongest delegation in Sabor.

Ante Đapić (Anto Djapic), leader of HSP, far right party which has been recently "de-Ustashasised" and transformed into "modern conservative right-wing party" – in other words, had the big picture of Ante Pavelić (Ante Pavelic) removed from its party headquarters – is more modest and expects only 10-14 seats.

Ivić Pašalić (Ivic Pasalic), leader of HB, announces grand coalition with HIP, and actually spelled out some sort of political programme in its announcement. HB would, once in power, repeal Same Sex Unions Act. How would HB do it is hard to tell, since Pašalić expects only 18 seats, which is far from necessary majority.

Of course, the real question is would all those expectations have any link with real results in November? The biggest reason for scepticism is not in those parties' programmes or their leaders' characters. The real problem for HSLS, DC, HSP, HB and HIP is in the mere fact that they all must snatch the votes from the very same electorate on Croatian right. And, to make matters even worse, Croatian right also includes Sanader's HDZ, which usually fares much better on elections than in opinion polls. Usually at the expense of smaller parties, including the likes of HSLS, DC, HSP, HB and HIP.

On the left side, Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) is more cautious and more modest in its estimates. So far, SDP has one solid coalition deal – with IDS in VIII Electoral District (Istria and Rijeka) – and Račan there expects 8 out 14 seats.

In the meantime, "grand" coalition of HSLS and DC might have some of those great expectations reduced by the malcontents in their own ranks. In X Electoral District Dražen Budiša (Drazen Budisa) has managed to persuade local DC leader Doris Košta (Doris Kosta) to take a dive and satisfy herself with 3rd spot on the candidates' list (which makes her election rather unlikely). But he also made surprise decision to put local HSLS leader Frano Garac on #2 spot, instead of Ivica Škarić (Ivica Skaric), former mayor of Split and his chief ally. Škarić doesn't like the arrangement that would leave him outside of Sabor and there are speculations about him going into election as independent candidate (and thus torpedoing his own party).

Saturday, September 20, 2003


New blog called Castrovalva. I also added Daily Kos because I happen to read it a lot these days.

BTW, is there a way to group various blogs in Blogroll? I would appreciate any suggestion.

"Our Man Clark"

If elections for US President were held in Croatia today, Wesley Clark would probably win. He is Catholic and he used to bomb Serbia. Those two characteristics are enough to make Clark "our man" for most Croatians.

It is very likely that the large segments of American electorate, or at least American political establishments, would embrace same sentiments and see Wesley Clark as the best alternative for USA and the only alternative to Bush (unlike "unelectable leftie" Howard Dean).

This Croatian is, however, less enthusiastic about Clark and, if given the choice between Clark and Bush, I would probably go for the latter.

You might say that Bush started few bloody and pointless wars. But those bloody and pointless wars were relatively minor in scipe and had some sort of rational or pseudo-rational political justification. On the other hand, we all know what Clark was about to launch over his own bruised ego.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Not the First Time

Miroslav Buličić (Miroslav Bulicic), new mayor of Split, has ended months of speculation and formally joined Libra.

Party transfers of mayors are nothing new to Split. In August 1995, after a ride on famous Freedom Train with President Tudjman (the very first train ride between Zagreb and Split through liberated areas of former "Krajina"), Split mayor Nikola Grabić (Nikola Grabic) has joined HDZ. Grabić was member of HSLS and became mayor in 1993 after HSLS, together with few other parties, had managed to defeat HDZ on local elections. On the very same Freedom Train ride Tudjman arranged party transfers of four non-HDZ City councilmen and thus assured that Grabić could keep his job despite defection. Grabić's transfer nevertheless shocked many, especially his mentor Velimir Terzić (Velimir Terzic), Communist-era dissident and one of the most respected politicians in Split. During 1993 post-elections negotiations Terzić was the most enthusiastic lobbist for Grabić to become mayor. Soon after that treachery Terzić died of heart-attack and his family banned Grabić from attending the funeral.

This time Split wasn't particularly shocked. Buličić, who had been elected to City Council on HSLS ticket, was actually quite loyal party member for Croatian standards. Buličić decided to quit his party only after Dražen Budiša's (Drazen Budisa's) decision to discard the local deal with SDP and thus deprive Buličić of promised mayoral position (which he was supposed to hold in second part of the term). But before becoming new mayor, Buličić had to endure intense negotiations and horse-trading between SDP, SDP partner parties and few individual City councilmen who offered their assistance (and defection) in order to provide SDP with new coalition.

So, Buličić's transfer to Libra and his rise to the post of mayor was rather anti-climactic. I seriously doubt that most citizens of Split are actually aware who their mayor is and to what party he belongs.

New Worm

Here we again. Last month it was SoBig. After a week my inbox is flooded with something called Automat.AHB.

Polls That Didn't Exist

On Monday morning average Croatian newspaper reader had to look very hard in order to find any information about Swedish EMU referendum or its results. This is in sharp contrast to the extensive coverage in previous days, when the news was all over the murder of Anna Lindh and its (presumed) influence on referendum outcome.

This isn't hard to explain. For the past two decades (Communist Yugoslavia included), entry to EU was foundation of each and every Croatian political party program – dogma that should never be questioned. In past decade entry EU is presented to Croatian people as the panacea – simple and brilliant solution for all Croatian problems. NATO would take care of Croatian security, while EU would take care of Croatian economy and Croatians, by merely being citizens of EU country, would enjoy living standards of Western Europeans.

Thought that some citizens of EU countries would have different ideas is something that should be suppressed, so Croatian media establishment – which still has some lessons to learn about its independence from politicians – made sure that Croatian people learn as little of Swedish referendum as possible.

I guess the same thing would happen with Brent East by-election in UK. Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan), who often likes to present himself as Croatian Tony Blair, probably wouldn't like the way Blairite voters booted Labour candidates. Nor would Sanaderite part of Croatian media establishment appreciate the alternative to Blairism – Liberal Democrats, centre party which has its own Croatian equivalent in the form of HNS.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

How To Recognise Croatian Chauvinists

The only serious rival to HRTL in its bid for former HRT3 frequency was TV Moslavina, local station that had earned a lot of sympathies with its quality programmes – comedy shows, documentaries etc. (later distributed across Croatia through local televisions' network). However, they would have less sympathy from me after I heard about their proposals for new national programme (submitted to Telecommunications Commission as part of their bid). According to proposal, TV Moslavina was about to start dubbing foreign films and TV shows.

Dubbing of movies in Croatia is bad idea. People are still accustomed of listening Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking with his own voice, and for many young people subtitled foreign films are excellent aid in learning foreign languages. Dubbing would only make distribution of foreign films more expensive and complicated, since subtitles require a single translator while dubbing of an average movie would require at least 4-5 actors plus recording studio.

Of course, all those arguments didn't prevent some Croatian chauvinists from demanding that foreign films be dubbed. Their only argument was that all great nations of Europe (Germany, Italy, France, Spain) dub foreign films, so Croatia, being a great nation of Europe, should dub foreign films too. Thankfully, even in Tudjman's times those voices were quickly silenced with financial considerations, but proponents of dubbing are still here and some are holding high positions within Croatian political and cultural establishment. I guess that dubbing plans were included in the TV Moslavina bid with the specific purpose of winning the favour of Croatian chauvinists within Telecommunications Commission.

Thankfully, reason, albeit supported by some very special financial and political interests, has prevailed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] Groupings

Defying all expectations and listening to some common sense for a change, Dražen Budiša (Drazen Budisa) and Mate Granić (Mate Granic) have agreed to form joint tickets. In 6 districts the tickets be led by HSLS, and in 4 districts by 4 DC candidates. They expect to win 20-25 seats in Sabor. Their estimate is over-optimistic; they would be lucky if they end up with half of that number. But that would nevertheless represent something of a boost for Sanader and improving his chances for unseating Račan's (Racan's) coalition.

Seeing where the wind is blowing, SDP reacted by offering olive's branch to Libra. Of course, their representatives stress that they will not make grand national coalition with 1-2 % party, but that some ad hoc arrangements on "local levels" are possible. In other words, SDP needs Libra, but one or two seats are best Libra can hope at this stage.

In the same time, SDP publicly scuttled its coalition with PGS, small left-wing regional party from Rijeka (whose representatives entered Sabor on SDP ticket in 2000). But PGS representatives don't have much to worry, because they found shelter on HNS ticket.

Silvio's Stability

While Czech politicians want to keep stability by gentlemen's agreements and unwritten constitutional customs, Italian Silvio Berlusconi chose different method – set of comprehensive constitutional reforms. Italian Parliament is going to have number of its members reduced by third, Senate is going to be elected by regional assemblies instead of by direct vote, Prime Minister would gain powers to sack and appoint ministers directly, parties in government coalitions would be forbidden to leave…

Needless to say, Berlusconi would like to justify those reforms with the desire to introduce more stability in Italian politics, notorious for its unpredictability. Until 1990s Italian cabinets, based on coalitions composed of many small parties, had average lifespan of one year. Same phenomenon persevered even after 1990s reforms designed to decrease the influence of small parties and Silvio Berlusconi himself had to leave office thanks to one of his partners stabbing him in the back. Berlusconi wants to prevent this from happening again…

...and grabbing more and more power has nothing to do with it, of course. Political stability is the aim that justifies all means. Democracy, minority rights and rule of law should never stand in the way of political stability. So, if this new set of reforms passes in Italian Parliament (which isn't likely, due to two-thirds majority) next step would be abolition of all political parties except the one holding power. This would make Italy even more stable. After all, Berlusconi's role model is his predecessor who presided over the most stable period in Italian history – between 1922 and 1943.

Surreal Civility

Petr Bokuvka a.k.a. Daily Czech brings a story about incredible amount of civility and fair play among Czech political parties – government party might have one of their Parliament members unavailable for a crucial vote, so opposition agreed to have one of their Parliaments members abstain in order to keep the balance of power in Parliament.

I seriously don't know what the reasoning behind this "pairing up" is? Noble ideals of Parliament expressing people's will based solely on election results and regardless of day-to-day developments? Maintaining political stability at any cost and discouraging defections, factionalism, party splitting etc.?

This only shows why so many people in Europe seem so alienated from political elites, especially those in countries where Parliaments are built on proportional representations. The whole purpose of democracy is for Parliament to represent people, not parties. Voters cast their ballots in order to have their voice in legislature; this "civility" denies them that voice.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

No Surprises

Years after the necessary political decisions and after months of intense speculations Croatian state television is going to lose its third national programme. Frequencies of former HRT 3 are going to be sold to HRTL – media group controlled by German TV station RTL and backed by few Croatian partners, mostly firms and businessmen close to Račan (Racan).

The formal takeover is going to take place in six months. In the meantime, HRTL is promising some 30 millions € of investment into new programme, which would include first Croatian soap opera and "lot of entertainment".

Rupert Murdoch was among the candidates for that particular frequency, but his group never made it to second round of vote. Murdoch might compensate that by taking over struggling Nova TV.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] If You Don't Succeed…

Many political commentators from the right sphere of Croatian media still can't fathom why HSLS and DC can't come to some sort of understanding and form coalition necessary for those two parties to swing the outcome of next elections. Partly because of so much negative reaction, partly because of Sanader's discreet pressure (if he wants HSLS and DC to hook up, he can't do it publicly, because it would be sign of weakness) and partly because of some suspicious-looking opinion polls that give HSLS-DC massive 10% of votes, HSLS and DC restarted negotiations. Those negotiations ended on Friday, still without result.

In the meantime, Dražen Budiša (Drazen Budisa) published the candidates' lists in each of 10 electoral districts. This is clear show of force – Budiša wants to tell anyone that he can go to the polls alone and that his loyal troops on the ground won't be sold out to bunch of losers from DC. This new-found confidence of HSLS could be, at least partially, explained with the opinion polls. If HSLS-DC can get 10% Budiša expects that most of those 10% are coming from his supporters. HSLS Without DC can in that way expect at least 6-7 %, which is enough for comfortable 10 seats in Sabor. So, why risking party unity over bunch of losers that could bring mere 1-2 %?

I'm rather sceptic towards all those opinion polls, because traditionally HDZ and SDP fare much better on the real elections than in those surveys. Discrepancy between opinion and actual polls is usually at the expense of centre or "centre" parties like HSLS and DC.

Swedish EMU Referendum

I expected "No" camp to win, but with a tiny margin. First exit polls indicated that I was right. But the final result put "No" in much wider lead – all that despite speculations about sympathy for murdered Anna Lindh and high turnout giving the huge boost to "Yes" camp.

In the end, Swedes were drawn to the polls, but in the actual boots they voted with their minds rather than with their hearts. Sympathy can't win votes, at least not in well-established democracies.

On the other hand, I think that at least a fraction of voters was embarrassed to admit that they voted "No". That would explain discrepancy between exit polls and actual referendum results.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Heroes of September 12th

On September 12th, diverse but very brave group of men stood up to the dangerous fanatics who, motivated by their own perverse interpretation of Islam, had struck at the very heart of Western civilisation.

That group included people who would later have distinctive careers, earn fame, affect national and world history and, last but not least, have their bloodlines preserved in the most charming ways possible.

Interestingly enough, Horst Prillinger didn't bother to mention that particular anniversary in his blog.

Another Sad Comparison

Assassination of Anna Lindh was another opportunity for me to remember the utter blandness and lack of charisma of her Croatian colleague Tonino Picula. That same lack of charisma was the reason for Picula to stay out of media spotlight, but also to evade the major scandals that were plaguing other departments of Croatian government.

The only time Picula created something resembling deep suspicions or displeasure in Croatian society happened at the very beginning of his mandate in 2000. Soon after becoming Croatian foreign minister he moved into new apartment in Zagreb. That created major inconvenience for his neighbours who later complained to media about annoying and constant presence of uniformed and plainclothes police.

Friday, September 12, 2003

It Is Official

Silvio Berlusconi is full of it. He claims that Benito Mussolini was "better dictator than Saddam Hussein" and that he didn't kill anyone.

I can understand that Alessandra Mussolini might be pleased with such statement, but let's just say that most members of my family – those who can remember 1940s on this side of Adriatic – don't share such sentiments. And I doubt that they would think much of Mussolini's benevolence after two penal expeditions that left all men between ages 18 and 30 summarily executed and the entire village burned.

Special commission founded by Tito after WW2 has established that some 50,000 civilians on the territory of former Yugoslavia were murdered by Italian forces during 1941-43 occupation. We might question validity of their findings and those numbers are relatively small fraction of whole bodycount in former Yugoslavia (900 K), but they are nevertheless huge.

I think that the Ethiopians would have even less enthusiasm for Berlusconi's words. I guess many of them would change places with Kurds who had been exposed to nerve gas which happens to kill people quickly and relatively painlessly, unlike Mustard Gas being employed in Abyssinia in 1935-36.

I wonder whether Croatian nationalists – the very same crowd that whips President Mesić (President Mesic) over any conciliatory gesture towards Serbs and preaches constant vigilance against Croatia's enemies from the past – would utter a single word against statement that represents an insult to the memory of tens of thousands of murdered Croatians.

Or maybe not. Many on the Croatian right would rather not remind Croatian public with whom their WW2 counterparts were allied and where Croatian western borders ran in those days.

Why I Didn't Mark the Second Anniversary of 9-11 In My Blog

I intended to, but September 11th 2003 proved to be much more intense day than anticipated.

Furthermore, like most other blog-writers, I was thinking of writing my very own personal 9-11 anecdote. But, after thinking about it, I decided not to. It would reveal somewhat embarrassing details of my private life, even more embarrassing conspiracy theory I developed in the first hours of attacks, and, last but not least, its publication could lead to one person losing a job (and possibly even more).

Besides, no matter how hard I try, that vignette could hardly match the posts of those who were in New York that day and who had better claim to be affected by those tragic events.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] Modern Techniques

Few days ago Croatian President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) has made his first official visit to Serbia-Montenegro. This was opportunity for Serbo-Montenegrin President Svetozar Marović (Svetozar Marovic) to publicly apologise for all the stuff citizens of his country committed in Croatia during the war. In return, Stipe Mesić used opportunity to apologise for various crimes committed by Croats against Serbs.

Mesić's apology, universally praised by all of world's statesmen and diplomats, infuriated Croatian nationalists. For them the apology "equates victim and the aggressor" and represents "insult to 15,000 Croats who lost their lives defending themselves from Serb hordes". And it is also good opportunity to bash President and thus mobilise the anger of certain voting constituencies at the eve of the elections.

One of the parties to exploit such anger could be HB. At least this is the impression I got after phone call this afternoon. I picked up the phone and was greeted by one young lady who said that she conducted a poll for HB. She wanted to know whether I supported Mesić's apology or not. I said that I couldn't have an opinion since I hadn't read the text of the apology. She also wanted to know my age. Again, I said that my age was something I would prefer to keep for myself, but I nevertheless gave her broadest possible answer.

If I was a paranoid, I would connect this call with my blog. Yet, this isn't the first time I had to answer phone polls. I had conducted few of them myself and I'm always willing to give students and part-time field researchers a hand. So, in last few years my phone number was very popular among pollsters (although I never bothered to tell them that I'm not exactly the in the most representative sample of my own social group). And, after all, Croatia is relatively small country, and with large number of pollsters and polling agencies it is quite possible for individuals to be polled many times in short period of time.

But I suspect that HB didn't conduct any real poll. The phrasing of the question ("Do you support or do you not support") and the absence of all other data apart from age (gender, marital status, education, income etc.) indicates that the real aim of the poll is not to collect any meaningful data about people's opinions, but to suggest that a) Mesić did something bad and b) HB was the only party to actually care about such insult to national honour. This technique – negative ads dressed as polling – is a long-established technique of American political campaigns. It is refreshing to see that some of Croatian political parties are catching up to the rest of the world.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

[ELECTIONS 2003] Ingratitude

Sanader probably didn't greet news of HSLS-DC coalition negotiations failure with much enthusiasm, but today he would have some comfort in two parties from governing coalition suffering the same fate.

Only, this time it wouldn't affect the results of elections that much. SDP and Libra failed to reach understanding before elections, so both parties are going to the polls separately. For SDP that might be minor annoyance. For Libra it is complete disaster – opinion polls give it barely 1-2 %, so it is very unlikely that they would have a single seat in Sabor after elections.

Libra members probably feel not only desperate, but betrayed and humiliated. Whole purpose of their party was to allow its members to keep their seats in Sabor and ministerial positions. They did it by betraying their old party – HSLS – and pledging allegiance to Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) and SDP. One of their leaders, deputy minister Goran Granić (Goran Granic), is one of the most loyal and most efficient of all Račan's associates. It was Libra votes that allowed Račan to survive confidence vote in Summer 2002 and thus humiliate Budiša.

However, at the eve of new election Račan showed very little gratitude to Libra. Large number of Libra MSes might indeed boosted Račan in Sabor, but its 1-2 % of votes is of relatively little importance at the upcoming polls. When it came to creation of candidates' lists, Račan had to think more of its own lieutenants and their factions than of his partners in Cabinet and Sabor. SDP, which had already secured joint ticket with IDS in Istria and Rijeka region, is going to pay more attention to various regional players than for Libra, which hasn't got much of a base on the ground.

Nevertheless, this episode shows that things loyalty at times can be quite counter-productive. Following the break-up of negotiations, Libra MSes began to criticise new budget proposal by the government, thus becoming de facto opposition. But few months before elections it has very little importance.

Furthermore, Libra prospects at the elections are horrible. Even if it offers itself to other players, it could be snubbed by almost everyone. Budiša's HSLS would have nothing to do with people who betrayed him; HDZ would undermine its own status of opposition party; many other parties would think of aligning itself with such opportunists as counter-productive. The only small chance for Libra lies within HNS trying to gather "centre" vote by making joint tickets with LS (its ideological twin) and Libra (in order to make Račan angry).

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.

Lika Anniversary #2

Having historian for president can at times have really bad consequences. In 1993 Franjo Tudjman was probably aware of 500th anniversary of Battle of Krbava, so that might have played the role in his decision to start the attack on Medak Pocket – probably the most harmful of all Croatian military actions during 1991-95 war. The idea was to reduce "Medak Pocket" –Serb-controlled salient withiun the Croatian lines around city of Gospić (Gospic). The action, conducted by Army and Special Police, went flawlessly; with Serb forces apparently being completely taken by surprise and Croatian breech of months-long UN-sponsored ceasefire.

However, UN diplomats – already busy with Croat-Muslim complications in Bosnia – demanded not only immediate halt of the action, but also for Croatian forces to retreat (and thus prevent Serb counter-attack). Under enormous diplomatic pressure Tudjman caved in, but his forces didn't retreat fast enough, at least not for Canadian UNPROFOR contingent that was supposed to work as a buffer between warring parties. That led to the massive firefight that left tens of Croatian soldiers dead – probably the most lethal engagement between peacekeepers and local forces in all ex-Yugoslav wars. Soon it became apparent why Croatian forces were hesitant to retreat; they needed time to cover traces of massive atrocities committed against Serb civilians in Medak pocket – mostly elderly people, too ill and too frail to flee. Years later, every senior Croatian Army and police commander involved in the operation would be subjected to interrogations by Hague Tribunal.

So, the offensive against Medak Pocket was disaster – Croatian territory wasn't liberated, Croatian relations with UN and major world powers fell to all-time low, dozens of men were pointlessly killed and Croatian forces had major stain on their war record. That didn't prevent authorities in Gospić from marking the 10th anniversary of the offensive by praising the actions and everyone involved in it. Due to unfortunate historical circumstances, people of Gospić should be forgiven for their not particularly objective view of the matter, but this celebration nevertheless leaves bad impression of another dangerous historical myth in the making. This part of the world had too many such myths and it doesn't need another one.

Lika Anniversary #1

Croats and Serbs have one thing in common – they tend to celebrate historic defeats.

In Summer 1493 some 8,000 Ottoman soldiers, led by Jakub Pasha of Bosnia raided territories of Slovenia and Northern Croatia. Huge number of prisoners and large booty slowed their return to their strongholds in Bosnia. That represented opportunity for the 15,000 strong army, led by Croatian Ban (Viceroy) Emerik Derenčin (Emerik Derencin). However, Croatian knights and feudal warlords proved to be inferior to Ottoman tactics; they chose the worst possible place for battle – the plains of Krbava Field, near today's city of Udbina. Instead of bushwhacking Ottomans, Croatians were bushwhacked and some 10,000 men died – most of Croatian nobility at that time. Thankfully for Croatia, Ottomans, unlike in case of Kosovo Battle, weren't interested in further conquests and the catastrophic defeat didn't erase Croatia from the world's map.

The area of Krbava was in 1993 occupied by Krajina Serb forces so Croatian nationalists couldn't properly mark 500th anniversary of the event. 510th anniversary was completely different matter – it was very public event, attended by Sabor speaker Zlatko Tomčić and organised by Catholic Church. Municipal authorities of Udbina, where majority of population happens to be Serb and where the power is held by Serb nationalist party SNS, have publicly snubbed the event. SABH, organisation of Croatian anti-fascist WW2 veterans, questioned the proposed name of the church at the memorial site – Croatian Martyrs – claiming that the name itself could only stir ethnic tensions.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Rainy Monday

September 8th is the start of school year in Croatia. Only few weeks ago many doubted that the school would start today. Official textbooks for this year weren't in bookstores and the intense heat led many parents to call Education Ministry and demand the start of school year to be postponed, due to most of Croatian schools lacking air-conditioners.

Things in the end worked fine. Textbooks appeared in bookstores and the weather improved. Intense summer heat was replaced by rain, wind and drastic decrease in temperature. Most of children went to school today wearing long sleeves – and this is something rare for Croatia in early September.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Henin-Hardenne Wins Again

I must say that I'm pleased with Justine Henin-Hardenne winning her second Grand Slam this year. Especially after such a terrifying match with Jennifer Capriati.

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Comments Problems

Again, I receive comments via E-mail, but they don't show up on site.

[ELECTIONS 2003] Guide to Croatian Political Parties

Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) has met some of his party bosses yesterday and publicly announced the start of election campaign. Since this blog so far happens to be the only one to deal with Croatian politics, I feel obliged to give regular updates about campaign. However, before I start, I would have to take into considerations blog readers who don't know much about what went on in Croatia in past 13 years and what those names, title and abbreviations mean. This short guide is written in order to give the cast of most important characters in upcoming drama.

SDP – Socijaldemokratska partija (Social Democratic Party)
Short description: former communists

No matter how desperately Ivica Račan tries to make Croatians forget, SDP is the same Communist Party that used to run Croatia from 1945 till 1990. Račan claims that SDP (which changed name three times between 1990 and 1994) abandoned Communist ideology. He might be right, but SDP nevertheless kept much of its Communist-era property. The Communist-era membership, on the other hand, left the Party, with the majority embracing HDZ. What was left was the core of activists and die-hards that, together with Račan's (Racan's) sycophantic skills, managed to keep SDP afloat in dark years between 1990 and 1995. SDP had its first glimpses of comeback during parliamentary elections of 1995, then established itself as major opposition party at local/regional and presidential elections in 1997. In 1998, under the guidance of US ambassador William Montgomery, it made permanent coalition with HSLS, which would later lead to SDP-HSLS tickets winning most of the seats. Following the break-up of coalition between SDP and HSLS, Račan has to rely on HSS, HNS and minor players. Election prospects: 15-20 % of the vote; good, if its present-day partners could be counted on for post-election coalitions

HDZ – Hrvatska demokratska zajednica (Croatian Democratic Union)
Short description: Tudjman's party

Founded in 1989 by group of relatively obscure Croatian nationalists, HDZ benefited not only from newly established democracy, but also from SDP miscalculation. SDP's idea was to promote HDZ as its main adversary, then allow right-wing extremists émigrés to become its very visible elements and thus scare the voters into embracing lesser evil. SDP didn't think that the voters, sick with Communism, would consider HDZ as lesser evil. SDP also underestimated Croatian people's willingness to react to the rise of Milošević (Milosevic) by electing Slobo of their own – and former general Tudjman, with its autocratic potential, has fit the profile. Nevertheless it took few years for HDZ to develop in right-wing, and times very far right-wing party, dominated by Herzegovina Croats and extremist émigrés. After the war and with Croatian population increased dislike for Tudjman's authoritarian tendencies, HDZ popularity began to sink until it disappeared after Tudjman's death. HDZ subsequently lost 2000 elections and was (and still is) ravaged by factional struggles. New leader Ivo Sanader tries to present HDZ as "reformed" and moderate right-wing party, but hardly anyone takes him seriously, because most of his present-day allies used to be on the far right during Tudjman's days.

HSS – Hrvatska seljačka stranka (Croatian Peasants Party)
Short description: rural pseudo-conservative populists

HSS members like to think of their party as the inheritor of old HSS – populist and ideologically diverse party which used to carry torch of Croatian nationalism in pre-WW2 Yugoslavia. In 1938 elections HSS won 98 % of votes in Croatia. Modern-day HSS, founded in 1990, can hardly aspire towards numbers. 10 % is its maximum, and this is quite understandable, because of the demographic limitations of its voter base – rich and relatively well-to-do farmers. HSS, unlike most of Croatian parties, has clear program – promoting the economic interests of those farmers at the expense of everybody else. In doing so, HSS under the leadership leader Zlatko Tomčić (Zlatko Tomcic), has abandoned any moral, ethnical or ideological consideration; despite paying lip service to country's Catholicism and conservative worldview, HSS feels comfortable in coalition with former Communists who promote gay marriages. Election prospects: 5-10 %; HSS would go at the polls alone and act as the post-election "kingmaker", most likely continuing its pact with SDP.

HNS – Hrvatska narodna stranka (Croatian People's Party)
Short description: limousine liberals

During the first democratic elections in 1990, moderate Croatian nationalists had alternative to SDP and HDZ in the form of co-allition led by Savka Dabčević-Kučar (Savka Dabcevic-Kucar) and Ante "Miko" Tripalo, former Communist leaders in Croatia who used to be nationalists icons after their downfall in early 1970s. Failure of that coalition didn't discourage Savka and Tripalo from forming new "civic-minded" and centre-oriented party in 1990; for a brief time, it looked like HNS might indeed be the strongest opposition to Tudjman, but its spectacular fiasco in 1992 almost put that party to dustbin of history. HNS reinvented itself in late 1990s under the new and younger leadership and replaced moderate nationalism with radical opposition to Tudjman. After becoming part of governing coalition in 2000, nominally centre party became radically left-wing, mostly due to the comparsions with increasingly neo-Tudjmanist and right-wing SDP. Despite few corruption scandals and President Mesić (Mesic), their most valued member, making few bad moves, HNS can still expect good results among younger and urban voters. Election prospects: 8-10 %, most likely to form governing coalition after the elections.


HSP – Hrvatska stranka prava (Croatian Party of Rights)
Short description: post-Ustashas

Founded in 1990, HSP was named after the party led by Ante Starčević (Ante Starcevic), 19th Century politician and great-grandfather of modern Croatian nationalism. Among many parties splintered from 19th Century original, one would later serve as a basis for Ante Pavelić's (Ante Pavelic's) Ustasha movement. WW2 legacy wouldn't discourage HSP to adopt Ustasha insignia and later form its own black-clad party militia during the war; that would serve Tudjman well, because compared with HSP, HDZ even in its most virulent far right form, looked moderate. However, HSP, because of its far right radicalism increased popularity among Croatians and Tudjman's regime had to resort to some drastic measure to remove such threats, including imprisonments, high treason trials and couple of HSP leaders being gunned down in suspicious circumstances. In 1993 less direct approach was used and HSP's radical and concerted media/intelligence services effort led to HSP leader Dobroslav Paraga being replaced by Anto Đapić (Anto Djapic). Đapić's HSP turned into Tudjman's satellite party, but, unlike HDZ, wasn't stained by corruption scandals in late 1990s. That helped in turning HSP into independent player after 2000 elections (HSP even made voted with Račan on few issues); with Ustasha images and rhetoric toned-down, HSP is now relatively well-defined and almost "modern" right-wing party. Election prospects: 5 %; most likely to enter Sabor without anybody else's help.

IDS – Istarski demokratski sabor (Istrian Democratic Assembly)
Short description: regionalists

Founded in 1990, IDS wisely chose to sit out first democratic elections and allow SDP to sweep Istria. Two years later, during the war, SDP was in tatters and IDS hopped in, knowing that people of Istria had little taste for Tudjman's virulent form of Croatian nationalism. IDS, under its leader Ivan Jakovčić (Ivan Jakovcic), became one of rare Croatian party with clear platform – promoting Istrian interests at the expense of everybody else. Ideologically, IDS was aberration from Croatian mainstream in 1990 - it promoted ethnic tolerance, trans-border regionalism and didn't feel embarrassed of Croatian Partisan past. IDS supported future rulers of Croatia, but Jakovčić, once in power, saw that the ineptness of Račan's government could only hurt IDS, already being accused of HDZ style of rule within the confines of Istrian County. IDS was the first party to bolt out of coalition (in 2001), but it nevertheless continued to support Račan in fights with right-wingers. Elections prospects: excellent; despite 2-3 % of general vote, it is in coalition with SDP in Istria, thus having Sabor seats guaranteed.

HSLS – Hrvatska socijalno-liberalna stranka (Croatian Social Liberal Party)
Short description: losers

Foundations of HSLS are the most embarrassing of all Croatian parties, except SDP, because it was founded in 1989, as "civic" experiment within Communist-dominated Front. However, HSLS quickly adopted Croatian nationalism and in 1990 became the strongest of all moderate nationalist parties. In 1992, combining populism and anti-authoritarian rhetoric, HSLS became the strongest opposition party, gathering many civic-minded individuals. Four years later, however, HSLS boss Dražen Budiša (Drazen Budisa) got strange idea of coming to power by creating grand coalition with Tudjman. It led to his party's drop in polls, break-ups, but in the end Budiša came to power, albeit in coalition with Račan. After losing 2000 presidential elections, Budiša directed his displeasure towards his partner Račan, and by 2002 coalition was over, with HSLS shifting towards far right. Election prospects: bad, around 5 %, they might get a MS or two.

LS – Liberalna stranka (Liberal Party)

Following the row over whether HSLS should try reach understanding with Tudjman or stay in opposition, defeated faction (opposition-minded), led by HSLS chief and famous poet Vladimir Gotovac formed its own party, which took liberal and civic ideas of human rights, tolerance etc. more seriously than Budiša's nationalists. LS nevertheless failed to reach HSLS's former voting base, because the space had been already occupied by made-over HNS. LS is, therefore, party without the future; the only sensible thing for LS is to unite with HNS, but efforts in that direction failed, mostly due to both parties' leaders vanity. Dr. Ivo Banac, former Yale professor, became LS leader this year but his efforts to reinvigorate LS came too late. Election prospects: 1-2 %; unless they stick to someone's else ticket they could kiss Sabor goodbye


In Summer of 2002 Budiša decided to break partnership with SDP; many of his followers with seats in cabinet and Sabor, including deputy prime minister Goran Granić (Goran Granic) and defence minister Jozo Radoš (Jozo Radoš) didn't follow his enthusiasm and decided to stay in power by forming "liberal" party of their own. Election prospects: 1-2 %, same as LS, unless they can stick to someone else's ticket, they have no fzure

HB – Hrvatski blok (Croatian Bloc)

In late 1990s free press used to associate Tudjman's all-powerful domestic policy advisor Ivić Pašalić (Ivic Pasalic) with all the corruption scandals of the regime. After the 2000 elections this came handy to Ivo Sanader in his attempts to create new image of HDZ or "modern" and "clean" party and establish his authority; with the more than tacit support of media, Sanader defeated Pašalić's faction and forced him to create new party. HB nowadays accuses Sanader of "selling out" Tudjmanist ideas, while in return being accused of "dangerous far right extremism". Elections prospects: 3-4%, they might slip a one or two MSes of their own in Eastern Slavonia

DC – Demokratski Centar (Democratic Centre)

For most of 1990s Mate Granić (Mate Granic), brother of current deputy minister Goran Granić, used to be Tudjman's foreign minister. As such, he had to pay more attention to stuff like human rights, tolerance etc. in his speeches, and that was enough for media to pronounce him as the leader of "moderate" faction within Tudjman's regime. Granić tried to exploit this image, acting as HDZ presidential candidate in 2000. After his disgraceful defeat he was quickly discarded by his own party and had to form new party of his own. Nominally in the centre, DC gradually shifted to the right. Election prospects: 1-2 %, bad; unless they stick to someone, they are history

HIP – Hrvatski istinski preporod (Croatian True Rebirth)

Closest thing to single-issue party in Croatian politics, it was formed by Tudjman's son and former secret service chief Miroslav. Tudjman Jr. and few people around him are alarmed over Hague Tribunal investigations trying to put stain on his father's legacy and want to mobilise Croatian people to defend "nation's honour" and refuse co-operation with Hague. Most of its founders aren't particularly liked among Croatian people, and few give them much chances during elections, but they nevertheless made surprise gains during Zagreb local elections in 2000. Elections prospects: 1-2 %, not very good, but they are probably going to stick to some right-wing party ticket.

Of course, these aren't all political parties in Croatia. There are many more, but only a fraction have in constant media spotlight or have national organisations. Some parties are well-established, but they don't function outside certain counties or local communities. Real importance of minor league parties would be easier to access in days and weeks to come, after they become part of joint tickets in certain electoral districts. I would give more attention to them in future posts.

Saturday, September 06, 2003


Apparently, it was due to some kind of denial of service attack. That's why you couldn't access this site.

Friday, September 05, 2003

New Mayor of Split

Split city government crisis is over, or at least this is the impression you might take from the relatively smooth handover of mayor's seat to former deputy mayor Miroslav Buličić (Miroslav Bulicic). Buličić has been set to become mayor on the basis of coalition deal between SDP and HSLS, following 2001 elections and months-old impasse in which HSLS toyed with the idea of forming government with far right parties. According to the deal, SDP would have position of mayor in the first two years of mandate, then HSLS, namely Buličić, would get the top spot. When Split county organisation of HSLS decided to wreck the deal, Buličić felt deprived of mayoral position and, together with few more dissidents, decided to leave HSLS.

Buličić's mayorship is not the development that would stir imagination of Split citizens. Due to very limited powers of local governments (and that includes cities of Split size) and due to the fact that Buličić used to be among the most valuable, efficient and reliable part of former administration of Slobodan Beroš (Slobodan Beros), SDP politician who is slated to become Croatian consul in New York. This would hardly represent a major change.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Box of Chocolate

I've noticed an interesting blog from Seattle. It is added to my blogroll

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

A Fistful of Euros

I've just stumbled on new European blog. This is collective thing and is dedicated to EU and EU-related issues. Added to blogroll.

November 23rd 2003

A day that will live in infamy? Only if voter turnout in Croatia is measure of someone's achievement. Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) has, for the first time, announced the proper election date, thus ending the weeks and months of speculations.

Children Voting

Someone has already floated the idea (Otto von Habsburg in some of his op-ed pieces published in right-wing Croatian press), but seems that it is only now gathering something of a momentum in Germany. Some experts propose that the children should be being given votes through their parents as their legal representatives.

According to report, German Greens are opposing the idea. This is hardly surprising, since such policy would increase importance of families with children – the very electorate which is traditionally more conservative.

I don't think that children votes are such a bad idea. Due to demographic and cultural trends, Europe (and, to a lesser degree, the rest of developed world) has seen the increase of pensioners and decrease of the very population that would support those pensioners. In short, decreasing number of young people have to work harder and make greater financial contribution in order to support increasing numbers of the old. "One man - one vote" principle of democracy guarantees that the elderly would have increasing influence on the way national wealth is distributed in the future – at the expense of younger generations. Having those younger generations represented through proxy votes is the best way to counter this potentially destructive political trend.

Furthermore, in most Western democracies, alcoholics, drug addicts and mental patients – people whose mental capacities, including capacity to make political choices, are limited - are allowed to vote. Children, on the other hand, are not, although they, unlike the categories above, are more likely to make future contributions to the society in general.

In many areas of the law enlightened Western societies treat children like adults by putting their rights and obligations in the hands of their parents and guardians. Giving their votes to parents and guardians is the natural extension of such practices.

The major argument against proxy votes for children is practical. If the principle of child proxy voting is accepted, the legislation dealing with it would make the electoral process incredibly complicated, simply because child voter, unlike adult voter, would need intermediaries in it.

Take for example, the most obvious example of child voting – the average family. It consists of father, mother and child. To whom the child's vote would go at the upcoming elections? If father and mother met and conceived the child while attending Communist Youth convention, the answer would be simple. But what if the happy family happens to live in France with father as card-carrying member of Socialist Party and mother as staunch supporter of Jean Marie Le Pen?

The most obvious solution to this problem is Solomonic – splitting the child's vote with both parents receiving one half at the polls. This could complicate vote counting, but those complications are nothing compared with the fury from the feminists. They would argue that such policy would represent discrimination of single mothers and make their children's votes (and consequently, children themselves) less worthy than votes coming from two parent families. Giving the both halves of child's vote to single mother would, on the other hand, enrage social and fiscal conservatives who would scream bloody murder over "welfare queens" having more political clout than "normal" women.

Opening of this can of worms would also lead to another question. Since many marriages end up in divorce, should custody over children include children's proxy votes or should absent, irresponsible father (or spouse) nevertheless have one half of vote instead of more responsible stepfather/stepmother?

Teenagers with less responsible attitudes towards sex also can create new problems for future child vote legislators. What happens if 15-year old bears a child? Should her parents have proxy voting rights? And what happens if the father happens to be minor too? Should the vote of their child be split into four quarter – for each respective grandparent?

Immigration and the fact that love knows no political borders would also create new challenges. One parent is immigrant and can't vote; another is citizen and can vote – does the family as a whole gets one or half vote?

All those issues are at this stage only in realms of long-term speculations. But the idea is already publicly floated and it would gain momentum in years and decades to come. In any case, when the real debate occurs, it would be quite interesting.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

With Endorsement Like This…

In its latest issue Feral Tribune published an article detailing Wesley Clark and his possible bid for US Presidency. They painted Clark in most positive light, barely stopping short of open endorsement.

This is somewhat strange coming from the weekly which used to be only major Croatian media outlet being critical of US bombing of Serbia in 1999. Then again, Feral has different priorities these days – bashing George W. Bush and anything associated with his foreign policy. Since Wesley Clark happened to criticise Bush's conduct in Iraq, he earned a lot of Feral's sympathies. And there is even some Realpolitik thrown for good measure – Feral sees Howard Dean as "too leftist", and therefore "unelectable". Clark, as Vietnam veteran, intellectual and successful overthrower of Milošević (Milosevic) has better chance of throwing Dubya out of White House. And that, in essence, is the aim that justifies all means – even putting in White House man who had quarrelled with Clinton demanding even more intense bombing of Serbia – the very policy Feral had criticised as war crime.

Of course, the article fails to mention that famous Priština (Pristina) airport incident and what would happen if someone willing to start WW3 over worthless airstrip takes hold of American nuclear arsenal.

Monday, September 01, 2003

1000th Hit

It took more than a month to record 500 hits on this site. It took roughly three weeks for another 500.

Terminator 3: Serbo-Croatian Linguistic Chaos

I've just watched Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and made an interesting observation.

If you watch Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in Croatian cinemas, you would notice that the title is translated as Terminator 3: Pobuna strojeva. This is proper Croatian translation, using the same standard when the official language of Croatia used to be called "Western variant of Croatian or Serbian language" (until 1990s, for those not familiar with linguistic aspects of Croatian history).

If you watch official posters in Croatia, you'll notice different translation: Terminator 3: Ustanak mašina. This is translation you could expect in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro.

It is obvious that the posters were made for the whole Serbo-Croatian language market, instead for Croatia only. And it isn't the first time that word "mašina" is used on Croatian posters.

2002 version of The Time Machine was also translated as Vremenska mašina in Croatian cinemas. In old times the proper translation would have been Vremenski stroj or Vremeplov (the word that could have been used both in Croatia and Serbia, without offending sentiments of linguistic purists).

I guess we are seeing market forces at work. In the early days after the dissolution of former Yugoslavia, Serbia/Montenegro was under UN sanctions, and Bosnia was at war. That left only Croatia with more-or-less unaffected cinema and video distribution and Serbo-Croatian market. So, distribution rights for foreign films were sold to Croatia and Bosnia, but only Croatian firms had those rights, and, being under watchful eyes of Tudjman's regime, they had to use Tudjmanist Newspeak as the only proper form of Croatian language – purged of all words that might sound Serb or international ("mašina" for machine, "artiljerija" for "artillery").

These days, however, there aren't UN sanctions against Serbia, and pre-war distribution networks are more-or-less restored. Since Serbia happens to be the largest market, it is Serbian language that dominates, and distributors in Bosnia and Montenegro are pushing, just like in old Yugoslav days, for "neutral" variant of Serbo-Croatian language in order to cut costs.

Another Great One Has Passed Away

Charles Bronson has died. Hardly anyone in today's Hollywood has his presence and hardly anyone can so convincingly kick butt at old age. He will be missed.