Corruption Helps Croatian Officials Get Elected

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ZAGREB, February 15, 2019 – In Croatia, unlike in stable western democracies, voters punish fiscal responsibility and reward budget populism, while corrupt mayors stand a better chance of being re-elected, it was said at a round table discussion on clientelism and corruption, held at Zagreb University on Thursday.

Political scientists, economists and legal experts who attend the event, organised by the “Miko Tripalo” Centre for Democracy and Law, spoke about clientelism in the country and its forms.

Economist Vuk Vuković said that his research showed that corrupt mayors were more likely to be re-elected and that votes were frequently bought with transfers from the central budget.

One of the ways for politicians to stay in power and avoid any responsibility towards voters is to form a sufficiently powerful group of key supporters who benefit directly from favourable laws and regulations, rigged tenders, jobs in the public sectors and the like, said Vuković.

He noted that there were communities in the country where politicians win local elections with only ten percent or so of votes of the electorate and that at the national level, only 27% of the vote is required for a politician to win elections.

“A local official who successfully maintains his narrow interest coalition is more likely to stay in power for a longer period of time, to be corrupt and to manipulate corruption in order to win elections, as well as keep tax rates high,” he said.

Political scientist Kristijan Kotarski presented data showing that compared to other transition countries, Croatia was a weak and party-captured state.

Along with Hungary, Croatia has the highest cumulative share of parliamentary terms (68%) won by two leading parliamentary parties, the HDZ and the SDP, in the period from the first democratic elections to the end of 2016.

Also, the two countries have the highest share of expenses for executive and legislative authorities in relation to their GDP, he said.

Noting that the level of public spending in Croatia considerably exceeds institutional development, Kotarski warned that according to the average level of the institutional development index in the period from 1996 to 2016, Croatia is only in 26th place in the EU, ahead of Bulgaria and Romania.

Subsidies, public procurement and the wage budget for state and public employees are especially liable to abuse in building and maintaining clientelist networks, he said, adding that clientelism in the past ten years had resulted in a gradual erosion of democracy, putting Croatia in the penultimate place in EU rankings with regard to European development.

Ružica Šimić Banović of the Zagreb School of Law said that Croatia’s economy could be considered to be an economy by agreement. In terms of the number of tenders with only one bidder, Croatia is first in the EU, and such tenders happen even in sectors such as construction and IT, she said.

Presenting the findings of last year’s survey on attitudes among young people to clientelism, political scientist Vlasta Ilišin said that young people today believed that private connections were critical for success, while the same survey in 1999 showed that desirable factors of success among young people were competence, integrity and a pro-active attitude at work.

More news on corruption cases in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.


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