Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Cherchez la femme

Anyone bothering to analyse the lyrics of popular "turbo folk" songs – musical genre which is popular in this part of the world and infamous for its association with extreme ethnic chauvinism - would probably find overwhelming majority of them being sobbing confessions of tough macho men who defeat all their enemies and don't have any problems until a women come into their lives and mess them up.

Similar kind of song would probably serve as the perfect musical illustration of the first major scandal to hit Sanader's government.

The story began with Stipe Ćaćija (Stipe Cacija), Croatian Army major who used to be employed in Ministry of Defence. Last few months before the elections Major Ćaćija was on the sick leave, but someone told Željka Antunović (Zeljka Antunovic) about Ćaćija not being sick enough to miss HDZ election rallies. With this Ćaćija broke laws that bar active military officers from actively taking part in political parties and their campaigns. Antunović started procedure for Ćaćija's dismissal, but that dismissal was made moot with elections.

It turned out that Ćaćija wasn't only participated in HDZ campaign. He actually moonlighted as Ivo Sanader's bodyguard. For his services he was awarded by getting so called "presidential pension" – special kind of privilege given by President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic). That pension was given as part of a deal between Sanader and Mesić, but it turned out that Sanader wasn't through with expressing gratitude to his bodyguard. Ćaćija was appointed as assistant minister of interiors.

This affair caused some uproar in Croatian public, but apparently that wasn't enough for Sanader. Police union official who had accused Ćaćija for some illegal activity was suspended from the police force for his trouble. It seemed that Ćaćija was untouchable.

All that changed with recent article in Slobodna Dalmacija describing the plight of Sanja Jadrijević (Sanja Jadrijevic), woman from Ćaćija's home town of Sinj. 18 years ago she gave birth to Ćaćija's son. Ćaćija, like many fathers in such situations, reacted to pregnancy by breaking up. Jadrijević later proved paternity with two different tests but Ćaćija refused to pay alimony, forcing the woman to live in poor conditions.

Newspaper article didn't create much stir, but attempts of Ćaćija's friends to "friendly persuade" woman to retract her accusations and newspaper reporter Saša Jadrijević-Tomas (Sasa Jadrijevic-Tomas) did. Sanader publicly went after his protégé and Ćaćija offered his resignation.

More cynical observers might speculate about Sanader engineering the whole affair at the very beginning of his mandate in order to make himself look like the embodiment of integrity, at least in comparison with Tudjman and Račan (Racan). In any case, his reaction, no matter what the real motives were, was right thing to do. Only few years ago such quick response to the public outrage was unimaginable. Things in Croatia might be getting better after all.


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