In today’s edition of Globus, columnist Jelena Lovrić (Jelena Lovric) claims that Ivo Sanader has reached the beginning of his political end.
She might be over-dramatic but the current position of Croatian prime minister represents a stark contrast to his the image of pro-European reformer, modernist and confident leader who brought his party from the abyss and brought it back to power.
According to latest Jutarnji list poll, Sanader is today the most unpopular of all Croatian major politicians. Vladimir Šeks (Vladimir Seks) and Jadranka Kosor – his top party lieutenants – hold the second and third spot. To make things worse, same poll gives SDP 6 % advantage over HDZ. Polls like that are notoriously unreliable, but they could point to some disturbing trends at the eve of local elections where HDZ traditionally fares worse than on national level.
The local elections are the reason why HDZ suffered the greatest blow to its rule since returning to power in November 2003. Branimir Glavaš (Branimir Glavas), HDZ boss of Slavonia, controversial wartime leader and the man whose muscle helped Sanader take the party leadership, has been ejected from HDZ following the attempt to create parallel political organisation, dedicated to the cause of uniting five Slavonian counties into single regional entity.
It isn’t the first time Glavaš challenged Zagreb authority, but Sanader, unlike Tudjman, can’t afford the luxury of treating him like a prodigal son who would soon see the error of his ways. Soon after the ejection Sanader travelled to Osijek, together with Šeks – one of Glavaš’s best friends – and is currently trying to find suitable candidates for HDZ list in Osijek. In his statement to the media, Sanader confidently predicted that Glavaš would be blown away just like his Sanader’s former arch-nemesis Ivić Pašalić (Ivic Pasalic) was blown away after leaving HDZ.
Glavaš refused to comment but he announced that he would run on the elections on the independent ticket.
I think that Sanader’s optimism in this matter is just as sound as his optimistic appraisals in Brussels a day before E-Day fiasco on March 17th. Unlike Pašalić, who drew much of his power simply from being close to Tudjman, Glavaš has more than solid power base among HDZ rank and file, many of whom worship him more than they ever did Tudjman. Furthermore, Glavaš is an experienced populist and his defection is motivated more with desire to adjust to HDZ rank and file Eurosceptic views –which he publicly expressed after March 17th fiasco – and prevent his loyal voters from switching to HSP.
Before the latest events, HDZ could have expected solid results in Slavonia, one of its strongholds. Without Glavaš, electoral prospects of Sanader’s party in Slavonia don’t look very bright. And Sanader’s grip on on power is looking much shakier than it looked only few months ago.