Round-trip to Europe and back

It took Croatia’s current Prime Minister, Jadranka Kosor, a little under 30 hours to secure for herself the support of the HDZ leadership and evict her predecessor and former mentor from the Party. All but three members of the HDZ Presidency stood by her as she made it clear that fractions, open dissidence and attempts to brush her aside will not be tolerated.

Amidst the avalanche of kudos from many commentators who were impressed with her determination and quick reaction to the attempted coup within the ruling party, and all the criticism from opposition leaders – tempted to take advantage of Kosor’s momentary destabilization, questions remain about the true and long term consequences of yesterday’s and today’s events.

Will they, in any way, have an impact on the second round of the Presidential election? Is Ivo Sanader’s next stop in a Court of justice? Are quick political eliminations becoming a tradition within the HDZ leadership (Sanader himself got rid of his main opponents at the end of the 1990s)? Will the Kosor Government resist the efforts of the opposition to force anticipated parliamentary elections in Croatia?

Some Croatian media commentators, in their analysis of Ivo Sanader’s political career, cited modernizing the HDZ s one of his positive contributions. Yet if Sanader had truly modernized his Party, his own staged coup would not have been possible. The HDZ has not entirely completed its transformation from a vast political movement into a modern, democratic political party. Dissidence, when it appears, constitutes a major threat to the party leader, and therefore has to be immediately nipped in the bud. Elections within the party are neither transparent nor democratic, with base membership participation reduced to little more than acclamation of the leaders’ decisions.

As Prime Minister, behind Sanader’s pro European facade, his fluency in several languages and the supposed good reputation he enjoyed among western leaders hid a man in many ways as authoritarian as had been the first Croatian President Franjo Tudman. He just knew better how to hide his thoughts and tell his European counterparts what they wanted to hear, the way they wanted to hear it. Under his Government, corruption grew, public administration continued to be staffed according to political affiliation instead of skills and competence, and the Croatian economy was plundered.

While Ivo Sanader committed political suicide with yesterday’s attempt to take centre stage again, his complete disregard of democratic procedures, political accountability and sense of honour has caused serious damage to his party and to his country. Let us hope that more democracy will come out of this crisis, in particular within Croatian political parties, than just the reaffirmed political strength of “a woman scorned”.

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