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20 ianuarie 2020 - Special reports - Western Balkans

Former social-democratic prime-minister, Zoran Milanovic, take Croatia’s helm again. Now as president

Stelian Teodorescu

Croatia got the presidency of the European Union Council since January 1st and, for the following six months, Brussels will have to share with Zagreb the European economic and political development files. Will Croatia manage to continue the processes started by Romania and Finland such as completing important fields and chapters extremely necessary for European Union’s functioning, given that it has a new president and a different government? This is the question the new president, social-democratic Zoran Milanovic, will have to find an answer for.

Sursă foto: Mediafax

First scrutiny of the presidential elections, extremely balanced, 11 candidates

On 22.12.2019, Croatia has the first presidential elections tour, the seventh electoral process organized after 1992 to choose the Croatian president. There were 11 candidates approved by the State Electoral Commission. In the first scrutiny tour, which was held only a few days before the Croatian state took the European Union presidency for the following six months (starting with 01.01.2020), no candidate won.

According to the effective law, the president needs 50% plus one of all available votes.

The first three candidates had close results. Therefore, the former prime-minister and leftist Zoran Milanovic got 29, 55% of all votes, the president at that time, conservative Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic got 26, 65% and Miroslav Skoro, rightist candidate and former parliamentarian, 24, 45%. The vote K. Grabar-Kitarovic got (507.628 votes, respectively 26, 65% of the votes) is smallest number an effective president got, since 1992, when running for the second mandate.

K. Grabar-Kitarovic, supported by the Croatian Democratic Union, underlined, during her final meeting held in Zagreb, on 19.12.2019, that:  “When I came [to the president’s office], I found chaos. Croatia is better today, but I’m not satisfied yet … I believe we can achieve more”.

Considering that no candidate of all eleven got the necessary number of votes to become Croatia’s president, it was organized a second presidential elections tour.

New president of Croatia, former prime-minister, Zoran Milanovic

The second tour of the presidential elections was held on 05.01.2020, with Zoran Milanovic and K. Grabar- Kitarovic, both having a balanced confrontation.

After counting the votes from the second presidential elections election tour, Zoran Milanovic, Social Democratic Party’s candidate (SDP), won 52, 67% of the votes. Hence, since declaring independency in 1991, Zoran Milanovic became the sixth president of Croatia, after defeating the effective president, K. Grabar- Kitarovic. Also, Zoran Milanovic is the second elected president, after Ivo Josipovic, after being designated by SDP, the biggest center-right political party in Croatia.

K. Grabar Kitarovic admitted her defeat and promised a “civilized transition” of power to Zoran Milanovic, underlining that her country needs stability and unity.

Her defeat was a harsh strike for the center-right party, HDZ, led by Croatian prime-minister, Andrej Plenkovic.

Z. Milanovic, who was prime-minister between 2011 and 2015, promised, during his electoral campaign, to fight corruption. On the same occasion, during a TV appearance, political analyst Branko Caratan underlined that “Z. Milanovic’s victory will strengthen the social democratic party before the parliamentary electoral process, to take place in autumn 2020”.

Former Croatian president, K. Grabar Kitarovic, the Croatian Democratic Union candidate (HDZ), got 47,33% of the votes in the second scrutiny and became the second president of Croatia who was not re-elected for another mandate, the first one being Ivo Josipovic, Croatia’s president between 2010 and 2015.

Z. Milanovic was born on 30.10.1966. He was leader of SDP from 2007 to 2016 and he was, in two different periods, opposition’s leader in the Croatian parliament (from 2007 to 2011 and between January-November 2016, when Davor Bernardic alternated him as SDP president). From December 2011 to January 2016 he was prime-minister.

After graduating the Law School in Zagreb, Z. Milanovic started working at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, as counsellor for the Croatian Mission to EU and NATO, in Brussels, from 1996 to 1999. In 1998, he graduated an EU Law Master at the Flemish University in Brussels and he was the assistant of Croatia’s foreign affairs minister for multilateral political businesses in 2003.

In June 2007, Z. Milanovic initiated the establishment of a four center-left political parties coalition; this coalition won the absolute majority at 2011’s parliamentary elections and SDP became the strongest party in Zagreb’s Parliament. Z. Milanovic became prime-minister on 23.11.2011, after the Parliament approved the proposed government.

After the presidential elections, Z. Milanovic “thanked everyone who supported him, those who did not, to all candidates and former president, Kolinda Grabar- Kitarovi”. Also, he underlined that “it was a long, harsh campaign and Croatians chose him as president for all Croatia’s citizens and he is happy for that”. Furthermore, Z. Milanovic promised that he “will be a president to always oppose violence, injustice and to protect the weak, he considers himself as mature and honest and no one in the Croatian state he will run will ever feel as a second class citizen”.

A leftist president and a rightist governance

Although Croatia’s recovery from the global economic crisis from the past decade was kind of impressive, the country did not completely diversify its growth sources, strongly relying on tourism, which proves to be vulnerable against the foreign environment. Nation’s aging and the increase of foreign migration are, also, the key-issues that the current govern, led by prime-minister Andrej Plenkovic, ally of Mrs. Grabar-Kitarovic, has neglected.

One may say that Croatia is currently going through a social crisis, as this state is also defined by a high organized crime and corruption level, but also a scarce functioning of the judicial system.

Although she was part of a new generation of Croatian politicians, President K. Grabar Kitarovic (2015-2020) was often defined as “stiff”, unlike any of her effective predecessors. Also, it is noteworthy that the future Croatian president, Z. Milanovic, has underlined that “four million Croatians are seeking a place in Europe, which is, despite all issues, the most beautiful place to live in, the most peaceful project wherein Croatia must find a place and interest”.

Translated by Andreea Soare