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January 31, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 123
Second Round of Clashes within Croatia's ruling party

Does Mesic Like To Ski?

by Gojko Marinkovic

Citing a very highly placed source, ``Globus'' said that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman suggested to Sabor President (Speaker of Parliament) Stipe Mesic that he should resign. Mesic reportedly refused. ``Globus'' goes on to say that a dismissal is not in the offing since the ``balance of forces in the Sabor is such that Mesic has the support of HDZ deputies, and probably the opposition.''

According to ``Globus,'' Tudjman did not suggest that President of the Chamber of Zhupans (the upper house) in the Sabor, Josip Manolic, should also resign ``but this does not mean that such a recommendation might not follow soon.'' There was a time when Manolic was Tudjman's closest associate and the number two man in Croatia. Today Manolic disagrees with the President over most strategic questions. All that had been controversial at the Second General Convention of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) has escalated now. This refers primarily to the policy in BosniaHerzegovina and the stand on a state governed by law. The depth of the rift is best illustrated in an interview where Manolic's says: ``Why should there be a Croatian Democratic Union at all?''

Manolic believes that the HDZ has already done its jobit has taken power away from the Communists. He does not agree that the HDZ should remain in power at all costs, even at the cost of drifting into dangerous, ultrarightist waters.

Mesic holds similar views. At the moment his position has been made marginal, and also the position of the Sabor. Considering that Mesic, under the Constitution, holds the potentially second most important position in Croatia, since he, as Speaker of the Sabor acts as deputy to the President of the Republic, it is logical that he is being pressured into resigning, and that he is doing everything to avoid such a move.

According to ``Globus,'' even Defence Minister Gojko Susak does not enjoy Tudjman's confidence to the extent he used to. Susak is the strongest representative of the right faction, a man very close to Tudjman with a power base in HerzegBosnia. Susak stands accused of two crimes. He has been criticized for the catastrophic situation in HerzegBosnia, and has been blamed for the tragic fate of the Central Bosnian Croats. He is also allegedly to blame for the underdeveloped state of the Croatian military industry. The name of HerzegBosnia President Mate Boban is being mentioned in the same context as Susak's. Boban failed to show up at the latest round of the Geneva talks. Mile Akmadzic filled in for him and signed the agreement with representatives of the Serb Republic in BH... Tudjman had said earlier that Boban had not been dismissed, and that a concession was being made to the Moslem side which holds Boban responsible for the CroatianMoslem war.

Commenting Tudjman's behavior in his interview to ``Globus,'' Manolic said: ``Some might find such an answer satisfactory, others not.'' He went a step further in accusations against Boban and Susak. Manolic claims that Boban, ``on several occasions called on the inhabitants of Central Bosnia to leave their hearths, offering them the spacious and rich Adriatic coastline, land in Istria and the on the islands. This is a strategic mistake in Croatia's policy in BH, since the Croats are being called on to leave the areas where their roots lie. Such a policy is equal to the Serbs' crossing the Drina River and the linking of Knin with a Greater Serbia.''

Manolic disagrees with Susak's idea that Croatia should intervene in BH ``because anyone making such statements must know what they mean for Croatia.'' He does not disguise the fact that he is in conflict with Susak, and is not sure of the outcome: whether one of them will have to go, or if everything will be left to time. But the issue Manolic is most at odds over, one which has led his enemies to label him a former secret service agent and Communist, is his assessment on the efficacy of a state government by law, which he sums up in one word: A catastrophe! ``Murder, violence, explosions, smugglingall these are everyday occurrences. The worst thing is that only a few cases are tried, and very few crimes are resolved by the courts. War steps up violence, but regardless of war, a state must not tolerate murder and it cannot afford not to prosecute murderers.''

Even though it is clear that the battle in the HDZ is not over yet, and that disagreements and differences over the concept of the party are now out in the open, the HDZ Presidency has said that ``malicious misinformation concerning rifts in the leadership is not true. Speculation on the dismissal of top state officials, in particular Mesic, Manolic and Susak, is not true. It is not true that the President has asked for Mesic's resignation. The truth is that Mesic is on vacation, and that he will be abroad for some time.''

(In passing, a journalist's question: Why did Stipe Mesic go on a one month holiday in the middle of winter and ahead of an important Sabor session scheduled for January 25, Manolic smiled mischievously, and said: ``The man probably likes to ski!'')

The HDZ Presidency, however, didn't remain at this, and said that ``some moves, and the stands of opposition parties aimed at provoking a constitutional crisis and bringing about early elections, obviously do not contribute towards strengthening internal stability and Croatia's international position, but are directed at upsetting democratic progress. Their aim is to instigate dissatisfaction among the people, including disturbances, to incite strikes and set up cooperation with the `reasonable' part of the HDZ, in order to bring about a constitutional crisis and change of authority.''

This is followed by the most important part of the statement, probably rewritten from some not so old Communist Party documents: ``All this must be viewed as part of speculation by opposition and foreign circles in search of an acceptable replacement in Croatia, and in the other states which sprang up after the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia.''

Apart from this being the first time that the HDZ, albeit indirectly, is defending its greatest enemy Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, further developments have shown where the problem lies. The government has adopted a draft Law on internal affairs which says that ``the President of the Republic of Croatia is the Supreme Commander of all departments in the Interior Ministry.''

Using the excuse of an international and domestic conspiracy, Tudjman is trying to strengthen and legalize his autocracy by making the Sabor marginal, and the HDZ too. He has reduced the party to a party of anonymous apparatchiks. It seems that Tudjman, like Manolic, has understood that the HDZ has fulfilled its role, i.e. won power. Tudjman will use the party only as a voting machine for as long as possible. It remains to be seen if he will succeed in this, and if moves, such as those made at the Geneva agreement with Yugoslavia will hinder or help him. If he hears voices of dissent, Tudjman will know what course to follow.

Of course, he will not schedule early elections, something that according to public opinion polls, a third of the population want. According to these same polls, the HDZ is still in the lead with 33.8% votes, followed by Drazen Budisa's Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) with 33.1%. It is hard to believe that Tudjman would be able to win a majority in the Sabor with this percentage. The matter concerns a typical battle for power, and the full meaning of words spoken by some top HDZ members who said: ``Now it's our turn for the next 45 years,'' can be understood now.

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