Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 2
17 January 2000

Croatia News Review C E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N   N E W S:
News Review for Austria
All the important news from Austria
since 8 January 2000

Saša Cvijetic

The presidential campaign for the 24 January elections entered its second (and last) week. Public opinion polls indicate that voters' preferences changed significantly over the past couple of weeks after the parliamentary elections. Whereas all polls previously gave considerable advantage to the candidate of the former ruling party, Mate Granić of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), he now fell to the third position, after Dražen Budiša (from the winning coalition between the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) and the Social Democratic Party(SDP) and Stipe Mesić, supported by five other former opposition parties. However, all three of them have between 18 and 24 per cent support, with as much as 30 per cent of those polled indecisive, which means that the real outcome is difficult to predict. If none of the candidates gets more than 50% of the votes on 24 January, the two with the highest number of votes will run in the second round, two weeks later.

After the meetings with the presidents of all the parties that will constitute the new Parliament, Acting President of the Republic Vlatko Pavletić announced that he will give the mandate for creating the government to Ivica Račan of the SDP on 22 January, after the official electoral results are made public. Mr. Pavletić also announced that the first session of the new Parliament will take place on 1 February.

Ivica Račan, the Prime-Minister-to-be, and his future deputy, Goran Granić of the HSLS (Mate Granić's brother!), held two rounds of talks with the outgoing Prime Minister Zlatko Mateša on the modalities of the transfer of duties in the government to the winning coalition. Both parties agreed that all the activities in that respect should be carried out without delay.

The winning coalition of six political parties agreed on Wednesday on the concept for the functioning of the new government and Parliament. The concept envisages regulations for decision-making, the structure of the future government and Parliament as well as criteria for the distribution of ministerial and other posts. The main criterion for the distribution of posts will be electoral results (50% SDP, 25% HSLS, 25% other four parties). Ivica Račan and the Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS) President Zlatko Tomčić announced that the "Opposition Six" would sign a coalition agreement with the aim of securing a stable and firm government and Parliament. The agreement will be signed before the appointment of the new Prime Minister, and its details will be presented next week, Račan said.

The electoral loser, the former ruling party HDZ, is showing signs of severe internal rifts. On Wednesday, the Acting President of the party, Vladimir Šeks, dismissed the spokesperson of the party, Ivica Ropuš, while the HDZ presidential candidate left the session of the party's Presidency. On Thursday, Mate Granić resigned from all duties in the party, claiming that the fights within the party jeopardised his campaign, and that he would, should he win the elections, leave the HDZ. Ivić Pašalic, the party's strongman, also "froze" his activities in the Presidency until the end of Granić's campaign. Branimir Glavaš, one of the most influential HDZ leaders in the field (Slavonia) also resigned from all his duties in the party. Finally, the Presidency decided that party bodies on all levels should not hold any sessions until the presidential elections are over. The Party's Congress was announced for 15 March.

The Hague International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found five Bosnian Croats guilty of participating in the ethnic cleansing of Muslims, as well as in an attack on the village of Ahmici in April 1993, in which 116 Muslims were killed. The five Croats were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six to 25 years. Explaining the verdict, Judge Antonio Cassese stated that the Ahmici case was not a military operation but a well-organised and planned killing of civilians of one ethnic group, Muslims, by the army of another ethnic group, Croats. The aim of the massacre was the expulsion of Muslims from the village, said Cassese. He concluded, however, that, with the possible exception of one indicted, the Tribunal did not try the main culprits for the Ahmici massacre.

The number of immigrants in Croatia in the period between 1992 and 1998 is greater than the number of emigrants in the same period, the Croatian Bureau for Statistics reported on Wednesday. According to this data, 330,201 persons immigrated to Croatia, while 79,754 emigrated in the period of these six years. The immigrants mostly arrived from Bosnia-Herzegovina and the migration population is of a younger age in relation to the overall population (the majority of immigrants are between 15 and 49 years of age). Zagreb is the most common immigration area, where the number of immigrants in 1998 amounted to 18.8 per cent.

Saša Cvijetic, 14 January 2000


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