Being Accused of Crimes Does Not Mean You Cannot Be Successful Politician in Croatia

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Among candidates for the September’s elections, there are many who have been indicted for serious crimes.

While in other countries political and ethical credibility means a lot, it seems that in Croatia criteria for being able to be a successful politician are much more flexible. Among candidates for elections to take place on 11 September, there are many who have been indicted for serious crimes. And not only that, but many of them are expected to easily enter Parliament, reports on August 17, 2016.

One of such candidates is Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, who in 2002 was caught drunk driving. He was also involved in a car crash at the time, and then fled the police while drunk. Much more seriously, Bandić is a major player in the Agram affair and has two still indictments against him. He has also spent a few weeks in remand prison. However, all this does not prevent him from wanting to be a prime minister. While he will probably not become the head of government, it is almost certain that he will enter Parliament.

Even worse example is Branimir Glavaš, whose conviction for murder of Serbian civilians during the war has recently been annulled by the Constitutional Court, so he will go to a retrial for war crimes. In the annulled verdict, Judge Željko Horvatović described in detail the torture of civilians by pouring battery acid all over their bodies and by beatings. Glavaš was initially sentenced to ten years in prison, but that will not prevent him from entering Parliament once again.

Among candidates on the lists of the People’s Coalition is Stipe Gabrić (HSS), who has been indicted for abuse of office and authority in Metković. The Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organized Crime (USKOK) in 2014 started an investigation against Gabrić, the former Mayor of Metković, and others on suspicion of committing criminal offenses of abuse of position and power, abuse of public office and illegal mediation. USKOK announced in a statement that Gabrić caused damages to Metković in the amount of several hundred thousand kuna. Despite the fact that there is no law which would prevent such politicians to run, a message sent to voters is devastating. “What kind of message are we sending to voters? I do not think about it now. The voters will decide”, said HSS president Krešo Beljak, who himself was convicted in his youth for breaking into cars.

At the very last moment, SDP and HDZ have eliminated some of the more dubious candidates from their electoral lists. Therefore, HDZ’s list does not include Mayor of Zadar Božidar Kalmeta, who has an indictment in the Croatian Motorways affair. “Of course, the main principle is presumption of innocence, but political parties can raise the level of political responsibility if they want to”, said HDZ president Andrej Plenković.

On the other hand, SDP removed from its list former Agriculture Minister Tihomir Jakovina, who has been involved in several alleged or real scandals. No indictments have been filed against him so far.

MOST leader Božo Petrov says he would like to change the law and prohibit such politicians from running for office. “We should definite change the law. I think that, among four million people living in Croatia, we have enough quality people who can represent the citizens and we do not need people like these”, explains Petrov.


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