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July 6, 1992
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 41
Elections in Croatia

Spiritual Delusion

by Nenad Lj. Stefanovic

With one month to go until the elections, most observers and analysts believe that this time too almost everything in Croatia is known in advance and that the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) will triumph again. In a recent interview, President of Croatia Franjo Tudjman gave quite a precise forecast whereby the HDZ should fare incomparably better at these elections than at the previous ones, when this party won 205 seats in Parliament, i.e. 57.58 percent of the votes.

"HDZ will win more votes. All the rest put together will not win even thirty percent. Regardless of all the weaknesses of HDZ. But HDZ, with its platform, has made all this possible. Where were they, what did they offer? And the people know all this very well!" said President Franjo Tudjman recently, using almost identical phrases as his Serbian counterpart Slobodan Milosevic, who also likes to say "that nobody can deceive the people".

Tudjman most probably finds the reason for such self-confidence and conviction that the people will know how to appreciate what the HDZ did for the "Croatian cause" in the chronic identity crisis of the most influential opposition parties in Croatia.

Even though there are some sixty parties, the Croatian political menu is still rather meager, and most of the more important parties are fighting for the remaining free space in the right-wing, of which the HDZ had taken a good portion quite a while back. In such a politically "unsegmented society", as some analysts stress, it is very difficult to differentiate the interest groups and offer the voters an attractive and recognizable program, so that the ruling party alone can expect, with certainty, the voters' greater support on the basis of Croatia's international affirmation and its sovereign reign over the media. Aware of such a pre-election atmosphere, Racan's SDP /Alliance of Democratic Changes/ (former Communists, today a party of the right left-wing) which won over 20 percent of the votes at the last elections, publicly acknowledges that its ambitions at this year's elections do not extend beyond five percent of the votes, just to remain on the political stage.

The parties that won the previous elections were the ones that spoke the loudest against Yugoslavia and communism and the loudest for Croatia and democracy. There is no Yugoslavia and communism any longer, and today, when it is necessary to formulate a fresh strategy, the opposition has nothing else left but to play the more than obvious card that the ruling HDZ did very little for democracy in the past two years, giving the war as an excuse.

Columnist in the "Slobodna Dalmacija" /"Free Dalmatia"/ paper Danko Plevnik, however, doubts that the forthcoming elections will bring the greatly needed spiritual renewal to Croatia's policy and that a choice between nationalism and Europeanism will be decided by them.

Plevnik believes more in the choice between maximum, realistic and minimum nationalism, and warns, in passing, that the parties and their leaders today fight mostly over who will win over the dishonest and disreputable people.

One of the most ardent critics of the Tudjman regime Ivan Zvonimir Cicak believes that, at the forthcoming elections, the whole of Croatia will divide into two groups: the "Croatian" group which, Cicak thinks, is made up of Tudjman's followers and the group of "scoundrels, traitors, enemies, scribblers, agents and anti-democrats", all who dispute Tudjman's policy and are, therefore, automatically Lucifers. In this criminalization of Tudjman's political opponents, Cicak sees a space opening for establishing new autocracies in Croatia. At the same time, he does share the opinion of those who consider the HDZ an odds on favorite of the forthcoming elections, and claims that this party keeps diminishing. "The time of silence has passed in Croatia", says Cicak, "and obviously the citizens are now expressing anger, defiance and stubbornness, a desire for democracy and for more and more individuals to speak openly about the situation in Croatia, and to try and make Croatia a new collective HDZ camp."

At a time when Croatia does not have control over almost one third of its territory (where the elections, most probably, will not be held), when people are talking of at least 10 thousand dead and half a million displaced persons, when the war damage is being estimated at 20 billion dollars, and while mew weapons are being purchased at a high price on the world black market and while the considerably destroyed economy is stumbling under the burden of war, and the hotels stand empty, it really is difficult to expect Cicak's forecast to come true, that the citizen's option may play a more significant role in these elections. Most foreign observers forecast that the still present war psychosis will consolidate Tudjman and his position as "the insatiable Croatian nationalist", as the world's leading newspapers describe him with increasing frequency. Former U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia Warren Zimmermann expressed the same opinion of the Croatian President recently, noting that to Tudjman power is only an instrument in pursuing a nationalistic policy. Like Milosevic, Zimmermann stressed, Tudjman does not know the word "compromise", which means something dirty to both of them.

One of the undisputed advantages of the HDZ, prior to the elections, is the election geography, as it is called - the ruling party' s ability to shape the constituencies as suits it best. Using the experience gained in the previous elections, HDZ this time has redrawn to perfection the former constituencies, skillfully joining the ones where it scored a convincing victory with the ones where the voters cast against it. Unlike the previous elections, the only important thing this time is to win more votes than the rival parties, while a greater or lesser difference in the number of votes does not bring new seats into Parliament.

Every public opinion poll has shown that Dr. Tudjman is still peerless and that he is followed at a safe distance by Savka Dabcevic-Kucar (Croatian National Party) and Drazen Budisa (Croatian Social Liberal Party), while Stipe Mesic's political star (President of the HDZ Party Club) has been dwindling markedly in the past months (only a few months ago he was even more popular that the President of Croatia). Paraga (Croatian Party of Rights) is not a favorite, even though his ability to fly above radar and stage surprises is emphasized.

According to the analysts of Croatia's political circumstances, Tudjman's basic advantages in relation to possible rival candidates at the presidential elections are, first and foremost, his exceptional knowledge of the technology of power, ability to ensure the people's mass support and to rule the media, as well as his incontestable merit in consolidating Croatia's position in the world, which is also the result of his tactical maneuvering. According to various assessments, all this appears to the majority of voters as incomparably more important than Tudjman's egotism, the belittling of his political rivals, rigor in his public appearances, inclination toward parades in which he most frequently recalls a puppet, ostentatiousness, demonstration of Tito's behavior regarding villas and automobiles, but also some typically Bolshevik methods and the production of "inside enemies" when settling accounts with all who do not agree with his policy.

Asked by a journalist how he would take a possible defeat in the presidential elections, Tudjman said, "Well now, tell me, who could take over the state, and even if someone serious did exist, I would gladly be his advisor or I would, with even greater pleasure, turn to my unfinished manuscripts and journal memoirs that await me. I am not saying that such a figure may not appear tomorrow, but today, I frankly don't see one".

Unlike the Belgrade University students, who are persistently asking Milosevic to resign before the next elections and make his family happy, in Croatia there is still nobody who would advise Dr. Tudjman to turn to his unfinished manuscripts and journal entries. Maybe, this is because his works published to date are so bad and because, in them, he forecast how the nationalism of small nations would not only overthrow communism but also build a totalitarian Europe. Communism has fallen, but this "nationalism of small nations", particularly of the Tudjman type, are making not only tolerant Europe's, but also the world's hair stand on end.

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