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Croatia - Political Parties - Profiles

HDZ-led Coalition (HDZ, HGS, and DC) Tomislav KARAMARKO
Kukuriku Coalition (SDP, HNS, IDS, and HSU)Zoran MILANOVIC
BDSH Bosniak Democratic Party of Croatia Medzad HODZIC
DC Democratic Centre Vesna SKARE-OZBOLT
HCSP Croatian Pure Party of Rights Josip MILJIC
HDSSB Croatian Democratic Congress of Slavonia and Baranja Vladimir SISLJAGIC
HDZ Croatian Democratic Union Tomislav KARAMARKO
HGS Croatian Civic Party Zeljko KERUM
HL Croatian Laborists - Lab Party Dragutin LESAR
HNS Croatian People's Party - Liberal Democrats Vesna PUSIC
HSP AS Croatian Party of Rights - dr. Ante Starcevic Ruza TOMASIC
HSS Croatian Peasant Party Branko HRG
HSU Croatian Pensioner Party Silvano HRELJA
IDS Istrian Democratic Assembly Ivan JAKOVCIC
ORaH Sustainable Development for Croatia Mirela HOLY
SDP Social Democratic Party of Croatia Zoran MILANOVIC
SDSS Independent Democratic Serb Party Vojislav STANIMIROVIC
Independent List of Ivan Grubisic Ivan GRUBISIC

Croatian Democratic Union - HDZ - was the strongest party in Croatia. Led by the late Croatian dictator Franjo Tudjman, they ruled the country from 1991 to 2000. That era of Croatian political life was marked with corruption, incompetence, lack of democracy and extreme right-wing ideology. Under patronage of corrupt politicians, the entire economy was given into hands of oligarchs who robbed the country of billions of dollars and caused a massive crisis on all levels. In late 2003, HDZ came to power again, this time with a new, democratic, pro-European face. In a matter of months, however, they began to show their old face - of incompetence, corruption and autocracy. In less than eight months, their inept running of this country, without any vision or inventiveness, led to the fastest downfall in standard of living and economic growth since 1999.

In the post-Tudjman era it was impossible to talk about the HDZ as a party without focusing on its leader, Ivo Sanader. Though inauspicious and unremarkable in his beginnings as party president in 2000, Sanader has proven to be a powerful political force. Having originally played a nationalist card with harsh criticisms of the ICTY, Sanader then purged the party of its more radical elements and attempted to cast himself as a solid European Christian Democrat. His presentation of the party as a reformed, pro-West alternative to the SDP government resonated with voters, and the HDZ returned to power in 2003 with Sanader at its head. In the 2007 campaign, Sanader was attacked from the far-right as a "sell-out" and "traitor" for having facilitated the arrest of ICTY indictee General Ante Gotovina. But Croatia's success at moving toward NATO and the EU during the HDZ's term have bolstered Sanader's image, even among many Croatians who may not vote for him, as a strong and effective leader.

Social-Democratic Party - SDP - led by Ivica Racan (formerly president of the Socialist Republic Croatia in 1989 and 1990, prime minister from 2000 to 2003) were basically reformed communists. Officially, they had a moderately leftist program, though they were really moderate center. This second most powerful party was the leading party of the coalition that won the 03 January 2000 election. They promised a radical turn in Croatian politics, more democracy, fast entrance into the European Union and NATO, economic recovery, a dramatic increase in life standard, major reforms in army, justice administration, health, welfare and education system etc. In the end, all their promises were forgotten in favor of political games, inner power struggles and mild and indecisive policies. Though they managed to end the international isolation of Croatia, end the economic crisis (which really ended by itself) and bring the much-desired democracy and media freedom, their four-year rule was, more or less, a failure.

MOST (the name means bridge in Croatian) is one of the youngest political parties in Croatia or a coalition of independent lists to be more exact. The finish in 2015 by Most, an alliance of small local factions, echoed the success of anti-establishment parties across Europe. Party leader Bozo Petrov had vowed not to join a coalition with one of the two bigger forces. He softened his stance after the election.

This political platform started in Metkovic after Božo Petrov and his list, without any previous political experience, won the last local elections and de-throned Stipe Gabric Jambo, former absolute ruler of Metkovic. Some of the names associated with MOST and persons most likely to be on the ballots are: Božo Petrov, Ivan Kovacic (mayor of Omi), Ivan Lovrincevic (Former Dean of the University of Economy in Zagreb), and various other city and town mayors from across the country.

Main program characteristics: Introduction of vignettes for highways better infrastructure for tourist centers; Ecological education starting from kindergartens and implementation of Eco standards in all areas and aspects; Independence of the food processing and producing industry, agriculture as a priority not a problem; Greater energy independence and increase of renewable energy sources; Judicial reform faster, more efficient judiciary system without political pressure; More liberal voting model with preferential votes, implementation of postal and electronic voting.

Minor Parties

Croatian Party of Rights - HSP - originally started as an extreme-right, militant, neo-fascist movement, whose members dressed in black shirts and suits, nostalgically remembered the Independant Republic of Croatia (a Nazi puppet state established 1941) and threatened death to all those who would even hint at the possibility of peace with Serbia or cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. After their poor performance on 2000 parliamentary elections, they reformed their program, disowned the ustashe (pro-Nazi) legacy and changed their views around by 180. They became a pro-European, pro-democratic nationalist party with some good programs for economy.

Formerly an extreme right-wing party, the HSP sought to transform into a more modern, yet still conservative, alternative to the dominant HDZ. These efforts contributed to the party's success in 2003 when it doubled to eight the number of seats it held in Parliament, and then again in 2005 when it came to power in several cities and counties across Croatia. In November 2007, however, the party made the 5 percent electoral threshold in just one of the eleven election districts where it ran for parliamentary seats. The very process of moving toward mainstream politics had led the party so close to PM Ivo Sanader's HDZ that the average right-wing voter could see little difference between the HDZ and a reformed HSP. The HSP's collapse was also precipitated by internal disputes. Its two most prominent parliamentarians, Miroslav Rozic and Tonci Tadic, left the party in September, accusing Djapic of being more interested in acquiring political offices than in advancing its policies.

Croatian National Party - HNS - was the most democratic and progressive party in Croatia. HNS was led by two extremely competent politicians (Radimir Cacic, a successful businessmen and a very capable minister in the 2000-2003 coalition government, and Vesna Pusic, a woman who was one of the best politicians Croatia has ever had). HNS wasn't afraid to state certain unpopular truths about the Homeland War that the rest of Croatia would rather ignore. HNS is a party with ability, vision and political will to shape Croatia into a prosperous country, ready to join the European Union as a cosmopolitan, democratic country, unburdened by its ultranationalist legacy.

Croatian Peasant Party - HSS - (part of the 2000-2003 coalition) was full of contradictions. On one hand they are pro-European - on the other hand, their program put heavy emphasis on nationalism. On one hand their goal is to build strong, free, economically viable agriculture - on the other hand, they want the state to keep servicing the debts of combinates (unprofitable state-owned mastodonts created by the communists during the 1950s - economists generally consider the combinates the worst thing that has ever happened to Croatian peasants). Their autocratic leader, Zlatko Tomcic (president of parliament from 2000-2003), accepted nothing but unquestioning obedience from other members.

Croatian Social-Liberal Party - HSLS - was the first party of the modern, post communist Croatia. They used to be the second strongest Croatian party until 1996, when HDZ-controlled intelligence agencies carried out the illegal "Operation Fox" which resulted in HSLS splitting into two parties - HSLS and LS (Liberal Party). Though weakened by the division, HSLS still remained a formidable force on the political scene, and was part of the coalition that won the 2000 elections. After 2000, however, the inconsistent and irresponsible policies of the party's founder and president Drazen Budisa caused the party to leave the government, forsake its social-liberal policies and turn sharply right. Discontented with such developments, some prominent members left HSLS, remained in the government and founded their own party, Libra, in 2002. HSLS is now a minor and insignificant party, with but a fraction of its former influence and power. It is presently led by Ivan Cehov, who sought to bring the party back to its liberal roots and possibly reunite it with LS and Libra.

Liberal Party - LS - was created in 1996 after the secession from HSLS. This moderately liberal party was led by late Vlado Gotovac, one of the most competent, moral, uncompromising and eloquent politicians Croatia had ever had. He was succeeded by Ivo Banac, a reputable historian, intellectual and an uncompromising democrat. LS is a relatively minor party, though it was the strongest liberal party in Croatia. It also participated in forming of the 2000-2003 coalition government.

Libra - Libra is yet another off-spring of HSLS. It is comprised of the more pragmatic HSLS members, who were also ministers in Racan's coalition government, and chose to trade their HSLS membership for retaining their positions in the government. They are now really, really minor.

Croatian Party of Pensioners - HSU - founded in 2003, managed to build a huge voters' base in an incredibly short amount of time. With its several seats in the parliament, this party had an agreement with HDZ to support the government decisions in exchange for higher retirement pensions and more rights for retired people (who live on the verge of poverty in Croatia).

Democratic Center - DC - was formed in the months following the defeat of HDZ in elections in 2000. Certain more democratic members of HDZ left the party to form DC - the first truly moderate party in Croatia. Led by two very apt demagogues, Mate Granic (minister of external affairs in the 90ies) and Vesna Skare-Ozbolt (a close associate of the late president Tudjman), they managed to findr their way into a coalition with the new and reformed HDZ. Their poor results in the 2003 elections meant they could only get one ministry in the new government. Enter Vesna Skare-Ozbolt, new minister of justice, even more incompetent than her predecessors (if that's even possible). Once she got her seat was goad USKOK (Association for Repelling Corruption and Organized Crime - a meek Croatian version of FBI and Scotland Yard) into arresting her party colleague Mate Granic for alleged stock malversations. Granic was released for lack of evidence. Offended, he left DC and now seeks revenge.

Croatian Sincere Renaissance - HIP & Croatian Block - HB - are two parties led by Miroslav Tudjman, son of the late president, once the leading person of Croatian intelligence agencies (= tyrant and spy), and Ivic Pasalic, former Tudjman's advisor and second most powerful man in the country, who amassed so much wealth during his time at the late president's side that his picture should be printed in the dictionary next to the word "corruption" (he was kicked out of HDZ in 2001 because of his notorious reputation and extremist views). These two authoritarians are leaders of two most nationalist and right-wing parties in Croatia, so it's only natural they would form a coalition. They made numerous attempts to incite public unrest and overthrow the legitimately elected government. Due to their total lack of credibility, they never managed to move the masses enough to stage an uprising, or even a small protest.

Iistrian Democratic Assembly - IDS - Though IDS started as a regional party, with their advanced, democratic, pro-European views they managed to amass enough nation-wide support to enter the government in 2000, as part of SDP's coalition. Disagreements within the coalition, however, caused them to leave in 2002. Now they've been somewhat minorized on national scale, though in Iistria they remain unchallenged.

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