Milanovic Announces Shock Run in 2024 Croatian Elections

Lauren Simmonds

Updated on:

2024 croatian elections
Sanjin Strukic/PIXSELL

March the 16th, 2024 – President Zoran Milanovic (SDP) is set to enter the ring with current Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic (HDZ) in the looming 2024 Croatian elections – scheduled for April the 17th.

As Jutarnji list/Goran Penic writes, here’s an account from behind the scenes of the day Milanovic shocked Croatia, allegedly agreeing on his strategy for the 2024 Croatian elections in secret.

It came as a bit of a shock to most that President Zoran Milanovic is planning to enter the ring with Plenkovic in the elections scheduled for mid-April.

Naturally, Zoran Milanovic caused quite a lot of confusion on the Croatian political scene this past week, first by choosing the date of the election, and then with the news that shocked everyone: he is planning to be a candidate for Prime Minister in the 2024 Croatian elections, and wants to carry the SDP list in the 1st constituency.

Milanovic will go to the 2024 Croatian elections as a non-party candidate and will not leave the office of president, which he currently holds, unless he wins the elections. He announced his plans on Facebook after a rather dramatic press conference.

“I’ve decided to run as an independent and non-partisan candidate on the SDP list in the elections for the Croatian Parliament, which will be held on April the 17th this year. After my election victory, which I’m sure will happen, I will step down from my position as President of Croatia, and with the support of the new majority in the Croatian Parliament, I’ll take responsibility for leading the Croatian Government. Until I assume my new position, I’m going to continue to perform all of my duties as President of the Republic of Croatia in accordance with my constitutional obligations and duties,” he posted on Facebook.

The final straw and a kind of “game changer”, at least according to SDP sources, was the election of Ivan Turudic as the new state attorney general. Milanovic’s speech in which he announced that in the spring “rivers of justice” would run throughout the country also clearly alluded to this.

“There are moments when you just need to get out of your comfort zone. That moment definitely came and knocked on my door, in the form of the situation with Turudic. It’s not a mere drop of water, it’s a bucket that has overflowed the septic tank of all the suffocating impurities that “AP” [Andrej Plenkovic] and his bullies have left behind. Entire rivers, just like in Greek mythology, will be needed. This time not the rivers of Heracles, Alpheus and Peneus, but instead – the rivers of justice. The rivers of justice are coming,” he said, quoting the lyrics of Jura Stublic’s song.

As the 2024 Croatian elections loom, Milanovic promised, as he has before, a decisive and clean government.

“You know what you’re in for with me…”

Sanjin Strukic/PIXSELL

“We will expel all of the thieves, oppressors and their helpers, and prevent their return, but this time for a long time. You know what you’re in for with me. I’d like to invite all untainted and virtuous political people and parties to come together in this mission. Differences between us exist and they won’t just vanish as soon as this announcement is made. But regardless of these differences, I believe there is a stronger faith and strength in the fact that we can work together and want to work together for the benefit of the country. A country that is the only one that we really care about. Others either don’t know about it, or don’t care about it,” – he said, before concluding:

“The rivers of justice are coming, they’ll come pouring out in the spring, and they’ll do so all over the country. Then we will see ourselves living in a better and brighter country called Croatia,” said Milanovic.

This address of his was not announced previously at all. His own party, SDP, called an extraordinary media conference with its president, Peđa Grbin. President Milanovic appeared at the conference and simply announced that he was going to run in the upcoming elections. Grbin, on the other hand, confirmed that he, as president of the SDP, will not be a candidate for prime minister.

“We discussed among ourselves that the only way to defeat HDZ is for Milanovic to run in the 2024 Croatian elections, but that was not a sure thing,” one high-ranking member of SDP revealed.

Interlocutors from HDZ made similar unofficial comments.

“I mean… yes, it’s surprised me, but at one point we all thought that the only way to defeat HDZ was for Milanovic to run for office, but we didn’t expect that it would actually happen,” one HDZ member from the Presidency commented.

A move shrouded in secrecy

Sanjin Strukic/PIXSELL

Milanovic apparently negotiated this strategy with members at the very top of SDP in complete and utter secrecy. So secret were these plans that his shock return to the political arena in the parliamentary elections was not even hinted at. The date of the election was being adjusted, and SDP members revealed that there would be a higher turnout if the election was held on a Wednesday.

“april the 17th is also world circus day!”

Borna Jakisc/PIXSELL

HDZ Prime Minister Andrej Plenković commented on this sudden decision at a party meeting in Osijek. At the top of his voice, he spoke about a president who is afraid of Turudic, and who is pro-Russian.

“April the 17th is actually also World Circus Day, so that’s also important to know. To make that circus-like atmosphere even stronger, while we were driving to Osijek, we heard that Milanovic had decided to run for the elections with SDP, but to keep his position, no matter what. Well, that’s the circus that is going on and on. But this is great. Finally, the masks have fallen and there’s now no doubt that we had a hidden leader of the opposition. Now we have a calculating president and a candidate who thinks he isn’t going to lose like he did back in 2016. Rest assured, we’ll show him that he and SDP will lose for the third time,” said Plenkovic.

He also noted that behind this “panic move” there are three messages: SDP is weak and has never been weaker, that there’s a fear of DORH, and perhaps an attempt to send Croatia running into the arms of Russia.

“We will simply not allow that. There’s no going back to the old ways,” Plenkovic stated, sarcastically quoting Milanovic’s own campaign slogan from back in 2015.

The third time in history that Croatian elections are being held during the working week

Zeljko Lukunic/PIXSELL

According to the law, election days must fall on non-working days. That means that Wednesday, April the 17th will be a non-working day as well. It will be the third time in history that elections are held during the traditional working week and not on Sunday, as was the case on January the 3rd, 2000, when the left- the liberal coalition of Ivica Račan defeated HDZ on a Monday. On Monday, January the 24th, 2000, the first round of presidential elections took place, after which Stjepan Mesić and Dražen Budiša entered the second round, and Mesić became the president of Croatia.

The then government, as can be seen in the Official Gazette (Narodne Novine), passed a decree on December the 21st, 1999 declaring January the 24th, 2000, a non-working day. The decree also defines that employees have the right to compensation for that non-working day.

The deadline for the submission of nomination papers ends on March the 29th at midnight. After that, the State Election Commission (SEC) has a deadline of 48 hours to confirm and publish its summary lists, when the election campaign officially begins, ending on April the 15th at midnight. Then comes the traditional electoral silence that will go on until the polls close.

More challenges for the 2024 Croatian elections…

Sanjin Strukic/PIXSELL

The SEC has claimed that the implementation of the elections on a Wednesday will be somewhat more challenging because of the timing, but that they’re ready. They also assured that everything will be carried out in accordance with the law. When elections have been held on Sundays, the polling committees prepared the polling stations on Saturday, but now it will be different, meaning that they will ask schools, kindergartens and other institutions in which the elections are held, to prepare their polling stations on Tuesday evening when there is nobody present in the buildings.

Around Easter, the printing of the ballots will start, first for XI. constituency, which are then sent to Croatian diplomatic missions across the world, and then to other constituencies across the Republic of Croatia.

The last parliamentary elections cost a massive 13.5 million euros, and this one will be up to 30 percent more expensive, according to the SEC. This is primarily because paper has become extremely expensive, and the publication of summary lists, IT support, and fees for all of the election committees will also be more expensive as a result.

This means that the 2024 Croatian elections could end up costing more than 17 million euros in total.


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