Foreign media on the Croatian parliamentary election: Prime Minister of stability against popular sharp-tongued president

NEWS 15.04.202415:46 0 komentara
Zvonimir Barisin/PIXSELL

President Zoran Milanovic's unusual decision to declare his ambitions to become prime minister in this week's parliamentary election has attracted the attention of foreign media, who describe him as a "sharp-tongued" politician who has dashed the ruling party's expectations of an easy election victory.

“The involvement of Croatia’s sharp-tongued president in the country’s parliamentary election on Wednesday may not be constitutional. But it is certainly livening up what had threatened to be a predictable affair,” the BBC said on Monday.

“The country’s parliamentary polls tend to follow a pattern. A centre-left coalition led by the Social Democrats (SDP) runs against the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), whose support runs from centre-right to right-wing nationalist.

“Most of the time, the HDZ wins. It consistently reaps the rewards of a large membership base and strong organisation – though opposition parties claim that patronage and corruption are just as influential.

“But this election looks like it might be different. And that is all down to the presence of Zoran Milanovic,” writes BBC, describing Milanovic as the most popular politician in the country.

“People in neighbouring Bosnia, illegal immigration, and military aid to Ukraine have all been lashed by Mr Milanovic’s sharp tongue. Meanwhile, he has spoken admiringly about Russia’s military prowess. These are all unusual positions for an ostensibly centre-left leader to adopt.”

Milanovic’s tactics

The BBC goes on to write that many on the left hope the president is “cunning game, rather than revealing his true character”.

The BBC quotes Sandra Bencic, the prime ministerial candidate of the green-left party Mozemo!, as saying that this is actually the president’s tactic, because by taking on the issues of the army, security or Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he is adopting the positions that are normally part of the HDZ’s strategy.

Deutsche Welle reported on Monday that German politicians fear “tectonic changes” in Croatia if Milanovic wins the election.

MP Christian Haase from the Christian Democratic Union, the HDZ’s ally in the European People’s Party, said that the government in Berlin has a “reliable partner” in Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, which in the current uncertain situation “is “the greatest asset one can have”.

Haase says that Milanovic’s positions on Russia have been noted in Berlin and that some of his recent statements were not befitting of a president.

Croatia like Slovakia?

Liberal MP Oliver Luksic told DW that “Croatia’s firm commitment to the EU and NATO” is of great importance to Berlin, which is why they are concerned that Milanovic could become prime minister.

Luksic said that many in Germany were “irritated” by his statements and stances, for example on Bosnia and Herzegovina, the EU or the war in Ukraine.

If he wins, Croatia could follow in the footsteps of Slovakia, where the pro-Russian politician Robert Fico won the election, he said.

According to DW, Milanovic has also been criticised by Social Democrats from the Bundestag, such as Josip Juratovic, who “does not know why Milanovic is behaving like this”, despite being an “intelligent person”. He claims that some of the president’s anti-immigration and nationalist statements have caused a stir among the Social Democrats in Berlin.

Thomas Brey, correspondent for the German news agency DPA, told DW that neither Plenkovic nor Milanovic “shine with their views” and that he also sees “anti-democratic tendencies” in the prime minister’s behaviour.

Brey claims that some German analysts are “a little worried” about Plenkovic’s increasingly authoritarian political style and that he “will continue on this path if his European political ambitions, in which he sees himself in an important position in Brussels, fail.”

Political conflict in one of the poorest EU countries

The Associated Press writes on Monday about a “political crisis” triggered by the conflict between acting Prime Minister Plenkovic and the “populist” President Milanovic, who “informally” leads an alliance of centrist and left-wing parties.

“If the HDZ stays in power, the country would maintain relative political stability and continue on the pro-Western course in supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia. A success for SDP could put it on track for victory in the European Parliament elections in June and the presidential election in December. It would shake the HDZ’s long dominance of politics and potentially open space for stronger pro-Russian influence in the country, akin to Hungary and Slovakia,” the American news agency said.

AP writes that Milanovic’s “colorful use of insults against his opponents and critics has jarred many but he remains the most popular politician in surveys, seen as speaking openly and using plain words as opposed to the more reserved Plenkovic.”

The European news website Euractiv wrote on Monday that the showdown between the two politicians comes at a time when “Croatia grapples with widespread corruption, a chronic labour shortage, the highest inflation rate in the eurozone and persistent illegal migration along its borders” and describes Croatia as “one of the poorest members” of the European Union.

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