Vol 1, No 25
13 December 1999
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 6 December 1999
President of the Republic Franjo Tudjman died at the age of 77. He had been suffering from cancer since 1996 and was last hospitalized on 1 November for urgent colon surgery, after which his health continued to deteriorate. He died on Friday, 10 December at 23:15 in Zagreb's Dubrava Clinical Hospital.
Franjo Tudjman was born on 14 May 1922 in Veliko Trgovisce, near Zagreb. As a very young man, he joined the anti-fascist movement and was arrested in 1940 by the authorities of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, who accused him of illegal Communist activities. On the day of Nazi Germany's attack on the USSR, he joined the first partisan squadron in Europe, which became the nucleus of the mass partisan movement in the country, led by Josip Broz Tito. After the war, Tudjman worked at military headquarters in Belgrade, and, in 1960, he became the youngest general of the Yugoslav Armed Forces. However, in 1961 he left Belgrade under accusations of Croatian nationalism and returned to Zagreb to found the Institute for History of the Workers' Movement, where he served as director until 1967. After the breakdown of the Croatian Spring in 1971, he was sentenced to two years of imprisonment, which was reduced after Tito's intervention. He was imprisoned again in 1981, because of an interview he gave to foreign journalists. He became politically active again in 1987, when he visited the Croatian diaspora in the US, Canada and Western Europe, with whose support he founded the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in June 1989. The HDZ won the first multi-party elections in April-May 1990, and the Parliament elected Tudjman as the President of Croatia. Tudjman led the country toward independence and through the war and has, ever since, been an unquestionable leader of the country and his party. He was re-elected in 1992 and 1997, and he was due to hold the office of the President until the year 2002.
Three days of mourning (11, 12 and 13 December) were officially declared by the Government, following the Presidentís death. The central commemoration took place on Sunday, 12 December, and the funeral is scheduled for Monday, 13 December, which was declared a non-working day in the country. Thousands of Croatian citizens paid their respects to the late President by visiting the Presidential Office, where the coffin rests, and by lighting candles on the main squares of all Croatian towns. All state bodies and many political parties, civic associations, trade unions and other organisations held special commemorative sessions and expressed their condolences to the Presidentís family.
The majority of news agencies and media outlets have combined the news of Tudjman's death with comments on the mixed legacy he left his country. CNN announced the news only 20 minutes after Croatian Television, together with a comment on the policies of the late President. Reuters, France Presse, DPA, APA and the Associated Press reported excerpts from the address of the Acting President of the Republic, Vlatko Pavletic, who informed the nation about the Presidentís death and stated that "the role of President Tudjman in Croatian history was unquestionable" and that he would remain a "symbol of determination." The New York Times quoted the former US Ambassador to Croatia, Peter Galbraith, who stated that "President Tudjman was a dominant political personality in the Balkans in the last decade." Tom Hundley's article for the Chicago Sun-Times quoted Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic, who said that Tudjman was "a great leader in specific times." "There is no obvious successor to President Tudjman, but Croatia continues to exist," commented French TV, reminding viewers that the presidential elections must take place within 60 days of the President's death.
In spite of some statements by the opposition leaders that President Tudjman's death might be a reason for postponing the parliamentary elections scheduled for 3 January 2000 and carrying them out together with presidential elections (which have to take place by 8 February 2000 at the latest), HDZ officials refused such suggestions and stated that the parliamentary elections would take place according to the plans.
Saturday, 11 December was the deadline for forwarding the candidacies for the upcoming parliamentary elections to the State Electoral Commission, which reported that 69 rosters have been submitted - 35 from parties, 20 from independent candidates and 14 from party coalitions. 54 parties will contest the elections, together with 30 candidates for representatives of national minorities, which makes a total of 4100 candidates. The highest number of rosters, 31, is reported in the first constituency - Zagreb.
All the main political parties and coalitions made public their rosters for the upcoming Parliamentary elections on 3 January. The electoral system to be used for the elections is proportional and, for that purpose, the country was divided into ten constituencies, each of which will elect 14 MPs. There is an eleventh constituency, designed for Croatian citizens residing abroad, but the number of MPs that will represent the Diaspora is not known in advance, as the so-called non-fixed quota system will be used. This means that the number of MPs for the Diaspora will be determined only after the turnout abroad is known. The twelfth constituency is a "special constituency," since it will be for the election of five representatives of Croatiaís Serb, Italian, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, Ukrainian, Ruthenian, Austrian, German and Jewish minorities.
According to the most recent opinion polls, four parties/coalitions stand a chance of entering the Sabor: the left-centre coalition between the Social-Democratic Party (SDP) and Croatian Social-Liberal Party (HSLS) leads with 35% support of those polled, the current ruling party, Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), is at 24%, the centre coalition between the Croatian Peasantsí Party (HSS), Croatian Peopleís Party (HNS), Liberal Party (LS) and Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS) got 18% support and the right-wing coalition between the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) and Croatian Christian-Democratic Party (HKDU) had 6%.
The Speaker of the Parliament and acting President of the Republic, Vlatko Pavletic, ordered from Interior Minister Ivan Penic a detailed investigation about the alleged tapping of his office phones by the secret services. Although the Ministry of Internal Affairs denied the accusations published in the weekly Nacional, Mr Pavletic requested that the report about the investigation be forwarded to him as soon as possible.
Eight new judges of the Constitutional Court took their oaths on Monday, before the Parliament Speaker and Acting President of the Republic, Vlatko Pavletic. They were elected by the parliamentary House of Representatives briefly before the expiration of its mandate. Judges of the Constitutional Court are elected for a term of eight years. Three of the new judges are not members of any party, three are members of ruling party HDZ and two are members of the opposition (one from the SDP and one from the LS). The new Presiding Judge is Smiljko Sokol, a high ranking official of the HDZ and professor at the Zagreb Law Faculty. The Constitutional Court will play a particularly important role in the forthcoming period, since it is in charge of resolving all legal disputes arising from the electoral process and is an authority of last instance on these matters.
Sasa Cvijetic, 11 December 1999
Read more about Croatia after Tudjman in this week's issue of CER.
Copyright (c) 1999, 2000 - Central Europe Review and Internet servis, a.s.
All Rights Reserved