Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 5
7 February 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 Croatia
All the important news from Croatia
since 31 January 2000

Saša Cvijetić

Croatia has a new Parliament. On Wednesday, 2 February, 151 newly elected members of the Parliament took an oath and elected Zlatko Tomčić of the Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS) Speaker of the Parliament and of the House of Representatives (lower house). The house also elected five Deputy Speakers - Mato Arlović and Zdravko Tomac of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Baltazar Jalšovec of the Croatian Social-Liberal Party (HSLS), and Vlatko Pavletić and Ivić Pašalić of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). Tomčić is the fifth Speaker of Parliament since 1990.

Addressing the House of Representatives, the Diplomatic Corps and the representatives of religious communities and other public institutions and organisations at the constituent session, Tomčić advocated the introduction of a parliamentary political system within six to nine months and hoped for a "lasting atmosphere of freedom."

According to a previous agreement, parliamentary committees were established and their chairmanships distributed: the ruling coalition will chair 11 committees, the HDZ six, the right-wing coalition between the HSP (Croatian Party of Rights) and the HKDU (Croatian Christian-Democratic Union) one and national minorities one.

According to the Constitution, Speaker of Parliament Tomčić is also going to be the acting Head of State and will hold the office until the election of Croatia's new President in the second round of presidential elections on Monday, 7 February.

Two presidential candidates - Stipe Mesić and Dražen Budiša - who will contest the run-off election on 7 February, continued their campaigns by mud-slinging and mutual accusations, ranging from collaboration with former Yugoslav secret services and hiding the membership in the Yugoslav Communist Party, to using dirty money for the campaign. However, both of them agreed on the most important issue: both Budiša, who is the candidate of the Social Democratic Party/Croatian Social Liberal Party coalition (SDP/HSLS), and Mesić who is the candidate of the Croatian People's Party (HNS) and other parties in the "Group of Four," expressed their intention to initiate changes in the constitutional powers granted to the President and introduction of a parliamentary system.

The most recent polls indicate that Stipe Mesić will win the elections, although the difference in percentage is not as large as it was in the first round of elections (14 per cent). In the poll published in the Večernji list daily, Mesić scored 45 per cent and Budiša 40 per cent. Thus, the final outcome will depend on the decision of those 15 per cent who still do not know who they will vote for.

Madelaine Albright in ZagrebThe US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Zagreb on Wednesday evening and met Prime Minister Ivica Račan, Speaker of the Parliament Zlatko Tomčić, presidential candidates Stipe Mesić and Dražen Budiša as well as representatives of the non-governmental organisation Citizens Organized to Monitor Voting(GONG). Albright showed the unequivocal support of Washington to changes in Croatia and announced US assistance. "This has been a good signal that the new Croatian authorities will have strong practical and political backing of the United States," said Tomčić, acting Head of State, after his talks with Albright. Tomčić promised to do everything within his power to ensure that Croatia would fully respect all international commitments it has assumed.

Albright told all of her hosts that the path of reforms Croatia has taken was the right one and that Croatia could count on the United States' support on that path, adding that the implementation of the Dayton peace agreement, including the extradition of war criminals, as well as return of refugees would remove obstacles to Croatia's admission to the Partnership for Peace. Albright told reporters that she had delivered to Prime Minister Račan a letter from US President Bill Clinton that clearly showed the expectations from Croatia to become a strategic partner of United States in the region. "You can regard this as the beginning of a wonderful friendship," Albright concluded.

Zagreb police arrested on Friday the owner of Tisak, the state's monopolistic newspaper retailer, Miroslav Kutle, former director of that company Zdenko Francetić and two other board members. They were accused of financial crime and fraud amounting to 48 million kunas (DM 12 million). Kutle, the country's most powerful tycoon, who has managed to acquire the ownership of a huge number of vital Croatian companies in just a few years, has already been charged by the court for numerous crimes in other companies he owned. The police authorities explained that they had been collecting evidence against Kutle and his associates for a very long time, but have waited for "favourable political circumstances" to bring him to justice.

Saša Cvijetić, 4 February 2000



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