PR and political communications expert Krešimir Macan on the latest political events.
In an interview, prominent PR and political communications expert Krešimir Macan discusses the latest political developments, reports Glas Slavonije on June 17, 2016.
Has the agreement between HDZ and HNS brought stability to the government and the wider society, as Prime Minister Plenković claims? Can this stability be long-term?
With its decision to support the HDZ government, HNS has pulled Croatia out of the stalemate after the dismissal of MOST’s ministers ahead of the local elections. It remains to be seen what price HNS will pay and whether or not the government will continue to be stable for a longer period. I believe it is possible.
Here is one example: In 1982, the German liberal FDP party left Socialists led by Helmut Schmidt (SPD) and supported Christian-Democrats led by Helmut Kohl (CDU). The coalition then ruled Germany for 16 years! Croatia is a different story, and today’s politics are significantly different than those of 35 years ago. We will see what effects this cooperation will have.
HDZ president Andrej Plenković is leading HDZ towards the center and the dissatisfied right-wing politicians (Bruna Esih, Zlatko Hasanbegović) have left. They have been joined by Davor Ivo Stier, who resigned as Foreign Minister.
Plenković has been saying from day one that his government will be the government of Andrej Plenković and that the ministers will be his ministers as long as they have his support. He clearly demonstrated that in the case of MOST’s ministers, as well as in the case of former Education Minister Barišić. With the entry of HNS in the government, he has the opportunity to do what he wants, without new elections, although HDZ would probably achieve better results than in September 2016. However, the result would be the continuation of the stalemate.
An additional motive to look for stability at this point is the situation around Agrokor because, without a stable government as the only guarantor, there would be no new loans which have just been approved so that the entire system could survive the tourist season and avoid bankruptcy. It is a new approach to politics, in which the emphasis is placed on those essential processes that will move the state forward while avoiding the imposition of subsidiary, ideological issues as the main obstacles to development.
How important of a step is this coalition reshuffle (HNS + HDZ) towards a new political paradigm, so to speak, which we have never had so far and which, instead of ideological controversies, advocates for practical cooperation, irrespective of worldview differences?
This is the transformational process that Plenković often speaks about, which could lead to the normalisation of the political scene in Croatia and enable the development issues to replace those worldview issues that leave us even more fragmented and underdeveloped. Croatia is now among the least developed members of the EU, and we are behind Romania and Bulgaria, which are progressing forward.
HNS has decided to make that move, to come to an agreement with HDZ and Plenković, in order to make changes in society, as they say. First of all, in the area of education, which has become the right-wing battlefield led by Željka Markic and HRAST in the past two years. And indeed, these are the most significant changes at the moment – from education to the economy, at the time when Agrokor’s breakdown finally marks the end of Croatia’s privatisation and transition. There does not seem to be much difference between the centre-right HDZ that Plenković wants and the liberal HNS, since their positions are clear, primarily in the economy. A compromise is necessary for every aspect of life, including in politics, and the result of this cooperation could truly be a step forward.
What will happen with HNS?
The gap in worldviews between individuals is still there, and it has led to divisions within both parties. While HDZ has fared well for the time being, the exit of right-wing figures opens up the possibility to move towards the center, the question that remains is: What will happen with HNS? The first division demonstrated that there is a clear difference between local branches and the party leadership itself. While the party presidency opposed the proposal to enter into a coalition with HDZ, local branches that make up the majority in the Main Committee made a different decision. Does this point to the fact that problems in managing the party existed even before this decision? Every national party is based primarily on the party’s support in the field, and that should be reflected in the party’s management. Bad results for HNS at the local elections were an additional trigger, as well as leadership ambitions of individuals.
Stier has left the government but remains HDZ’s Political Secretary. Can he now be an additional problem for Plenković?
The resignation of Stier opens up space for him as a potential challenger to Plenković and to become a leader of the faction which includes former Foreign Minister Miro Kovač and former HDZ MPs Esih and Hasanbegović. As things stand, the majority of HDZ, for now, is in favor of Plenković, which could result in the formation of new parties on the far right, where it is already crowded, since MOST have given up on hunting for votes on all sides and has also positioned itself to the right. Ask yourself when you heard something constructive from other players on the right, something focused on Croatia’s development? This is where the future of Croatian politics will be decided.
All in all, for now, we have political stability in the country, a majority in the Parliament that could survive longer than one summer, because after the parliamentary break tensions will calm down and the government could likely win some new allies. HNS has always been able to negotiate in its interest and interests are a much better foundation for stability than love. Because in love the break-ups are often sudden, as we have witnessed in the past two years. We keep forgetting that majorities in some of Parliament’s previous convocations were also not large, but governments managed to survive until the end. Once you start things and know where you are going, things start to fall into place.
What new problems which could disrupt the new structure of the government are possible? What about Agrokor, INA…?
The challenge is, above all, Agrokor. Plenković has accepted that the mistakes of all the institutions must be corrected, primarily the Croatian National Bank, which has allowed Agrokor to borrow on the domestic market against the rules, leading a number of banks and suppliers to the brink of bankruptcy. If this restructuring goes well and with a good tourist season, we have all the prerequisites to continue economic growth as a country. And then, of course, we will not be interested in worldview divisions, but in whether or not someone is successful in education and economy. This is the real turning point for the further development of the state because we have not used the crisis years as most other countries did. We have kept the status quo.
What will be the role of the opposition? The impression is that SDP is increasingly losing its energy in mutual accusations.
The opposition has been given the opportunity to focus, after catastrophic results at local elections and intra-party turmoil. SDP president Bernardić has another chance to organise the party, but he will have to start from the field, first of all in Dalmatia, and then go to other parts of Croatia. Even in an SDP fortress like Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, HDZ has managed to get equal with SDP in a number of local government units, and the loss of Opatija was an additional slap in SDP’s face.
In Slavonia, HDZ took Osijek-Baranja County after some years. HDSSB is threatened with assimilation into HDZ because the Slavonians have realised that their divisions have brought them a lack of development. This responsibility is shared with HDZ because other Slavonian counties have also failed in making significant progress, even though HDZ has been in power there for years.
MOST will have a major challenge in building and positioning the party since they have decided to abandon the idea of connecting independent lists in a single movement. Although they have achieved a solid result by the number of councilors in local communities, there are few of them in which they are in power, which includes the loss of Metković, their main stronghold. They will have to learn to be an opposition, to write law proposals and find out how the state works because they have shown themselves to be immature during their time in power. First and foremost, they must strengthen their human resources, because they did not have enough people to fill all the posts at their disposal.
Živi Zid will also need to look at their policies. With his approach, Plenković demands from all of them to become more serious, because in the present situation the next elections may not take place for a long time, and in the meantime, the opposition has to pressure the government with its proposals, rather than making scenes in Parliament.
This is a step that will trigger processes in the political arena in Croatia that have been frozen for the past two years, in anticipation of a reshuffle between the two largest parties. Now, when that has happened, the next steps will follow.