While Croatian media is totally preoccupied with events in Vatican, ordinary life in Croatia still goes on. But yesterday something extraordinary happened in Sabor. Thankfully for Sanader, few people in Croatia are going to notice it.
Croatia is about to have local and regional elections – most probably on May 15th. According to good Croatian custom, ruling party or coalitions are engaging in all kinds of tricks to woo voters – from making all kinds of promises, opening buidling sites to good old gerrymandering.
The latter was one of Tudjman's favourite practices and his successor Ivo Sanader has to thank 1999 electoral law - which Račan (Racan) didn't bother to change during his reign – for his current position of prime minister.
Because of the nature of local and regional elections, Sanader used indirect form of gerrymandering – instead of redrawing electoral districts within particular counties, cities and municipalities, he pushed for the legislation that would reorganise system of local and regional government in Croatia, or, in other words, redraw boundaries of counties, cities and municipalities in order to have HDZ-friendly populations concentrated in most strategic spots.
In normal circumstances, this wouldn't be much of a problem. But the package – which included forming of eight new municipalities all over Croatia - included reorganisation of local administrative units within Vukovar-Srijem County. Sanader's cabinet accepted the ammendment, proposed by HDZ Sabor representative, which would change some municipalities' boundaries in favour of ethnic Croats. Problem was in ethnic Serbs in those municipalities being represented by SDSS, Serb nationalist party which just happens to be part of Sanader's government majority.
When SDSS failed to make HDZ drop their amendment, their represenattives in Sabor voted against the bill. In good old times, HDZ could expect the bill to pass with help of MSes from "patriotic" opposition – people who would never side with Serbs out of principle, or at least use this as an argument for supporting government. Yesterday, all those people failed to provide that service to Sanader. Bill had only 76 votes "for" – one short of necessary majority.
Not so long ago things like government bills having one vote less than necessary majority weren't problem, because Sabor speakers used all kinds of creative arythmetics and similar tricks. But yesterday Sabor speaker Vladimir Šeks (Vladimir Seks), much to the surprise and shock of his party colleagues, decided to let the vote results stands.
So, for the first time in Croatian history, important government bill was defeated in Sabor. The precedent itself is going to cause more damage to the ruling party at the eve of local elections than any benefits that could be gained with proposed gerrymandering. Sanader's omnipotence, as well as omnipotence of his party, is fianlly revealed as an illusion. After yesterday, it became painfully obvious that government could actually lose its Sabor majority any day and voters in various local communities, who are supposed to be wooed by promise of financial aid from central government, shall think twice before supporting losing team.
This must be pretty bad year for Sanader. After losing his closest associates and allies and suffering worst possible fiasco on E-Day, he is faced with this. Whatever could go wrong for Sanader is going wrong. Murphy's Law could be renamed into Sanader's Law.