A (Madder Than Usual) Week in Croatian Politics

Lauren Simmonds

croatian politics
Vjeran Zganec Rogulja/PIXSELL

March the 22nd, 2024 – This week in Croatian politics, we’ve had a lot more than than the typical scandals, new tax laws and complaints. Thanks to President Zoran Milanovic, we’ve had much more of an exciting one.

I haven’t done “A Week in Croatian Politics” for a few weeks. This is primarily because 1) venturing into video and keeping the site full of articles for our readers takes time and 2) does anyone in the English speaking world really care to hear of yet another boatload of missing cash or another obscure county prefect getting locked up? Probably not. The diaspora’s Croatian should be good enough to read Index for such things, and if it isn’t, well… I’m not sure what to say.

So, in short, the political commentary on TCN has been quiet of late, that was until we had the shock announcement from President Zoran Milanovic (SDP) who revealed to us all that he intends to run against rival Andrej Plenkovic (HDZ) in the upcoming elections on April the 17th.

Milanovic shocks Croatian politics – after a “top secret” meeting

Vjeran Zganec Rogulja/PIXSELL

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: that he’s actively 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 that gripped Croatian politics:

“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.

“Rivers of justice will flow”

Vjeran Zganec Rogulja/PIXSELL

“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.

“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.


Neva Zganec/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.

Plenkovic makes a joke about April the 17th also being world circus day

Marko Lukunic/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 – another trolling moment for Croatian politics.

The constitutional court bans Milanovic from running

Vjeran Zganec Rogulja/PIXSELL

It all came crashing down for a hopeful and seemingly defiant Milanovic after the Croatian Constitutional Court banned him from running in the April the 17th elections. You can read more detail about how that event transpired by clicking here. In typical “Croatian politics fashion”, it appears it ain’t over til the fat lady sings…

Milanovic calls the constitutional judges “illiterate gangsters”

Zvonimir Barisin/PIXSELL

If you know anything at all about Zoran Milanovic, you’ll know that love him or hate him – he’s one of the most vocal in Croatian politics. His war of words with arch rival Plenkovic has gone on for a very long time, and the pair are no strangers to making harsh, often cruel jokes on each other’s accounts, trolling, and generally being unpleasant towards one another. Milanovic has caught the attention of the international media on numerous occasions for his rather particular way with words, and it has been no different since the shock announcement of his intentions to run.

After the Constitutional Court banned him from running, Milanovic referred to the judges as illiterate gangsters that he had no intention of listening to. He stated that he won’t listen to any warning given to him by the judges and that they can’t do anything to him. He stated that they are “threatening Croatian democracy and going against the Croatian Constitution” adding that he would do “as his conscience tells him”.


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