New Candidate Threatens to Split Rightwing Voters at Local Elections in Zagreb

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Bruna Esih will run for Zagreb mayor against HDZ’s official candidate.

It has long been speculated whether Bruna Esih will run for mayor of Zagreb. Now, there is no more doubt after Esih confirmed that she would indeed run, reports N1 on March 22, 2017.

“Yes, I will be a candidate for mayor of Zagreb”, she said in an interview with Globus weekly, and thus confirmed rumours that she will run on an independent list.

Until a year ago, Esih was unknown to most people. Her advocacy of topics such as lustration, historical and ideological issues, crimes committed after the Second World War, communist heritage and opening of state archives, turned her almost overnight into one of the stars of rightwing part of the political spectrum. At parliamentary elections in September, she was elected as an independent candidate on HDZ’s list. She is currently a member of HDZ’s parliamentary group, and at this moment it is not certain whether she will be dismissed from the group for running against HDZ’s official candidate.

Her decision to run is certainly bad news for HDZ and party president and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who only a week ago decided that HDZ’s official candidate for Zagreb mayor will be much more moderate Drago Prgomet.

“Of course, there were different concerns and I did not make this decision overnight. I have also consulted with people who are more experienced and better informed about all the risks, uncertainties and political relations. I stand at disposal to my city and to all those who will recognize in me an authentic representatives of civil, national, political, moral and worldview principles which they themselves follow”, said Esih.

She also spoke about possible support for her from controversial HDZ presidency member and former Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegović. “Hasanbegović and I have been associates and close friends for years. We are led by similar political impulses, we share worldview and political vision. In this respect, we always support one another. He is a person with great support among authentic HDZ electorate”, she said.

HDZ president and Prime Minister Plenković commented on Esih’s decision. He said that HDZ would continue to support its candidate Drago Prgomet, and Bruna Esih can run as an independent candidate, said Plenković. He did not want to speculate whether Esih would remain part of HDZ parliamentary group, but noted that “it is interesting that this is happening at a time when HDZ has the highest support among voters in many years”. “If she cannot find a place for herself, then we will talk a bit and ask ourselves how did she agree to be a candidate for parliament on our list”, said Plenković.

Branko Bačić, chairman of HDZ’s parliamentary group, said he had not known that Esih would run. “As an independent MP, she has the right to stand. If she wanted to change something in HDZ, the doors were always open to her. She could have entered the party if she did not agree with HDZ’s policies. It is a little strange that she is worried about the party, although she is not a member”, said Bačić. “I will talk with Esih about the candidacy”, added Bačić. “HDZ firmly supports Plenković and the party leadership. As for the possibility that some HDZ members might run on Esih’s list, HDZ statues are clear”, concluded Bačić, alluding to the provision which forbids party members from running against official party candidates.

HNS’s candidate for Zagreb mayor Anka Mrak Taritaš commented on Esih’s candidacy. “I think it is good to have more candidates. It will be an interesting electoral fight”, said Mrak Taritaš. “Esih entered Parliament as an independent candidate on HDZ’s list and won a large number of preferential votes. We will see what will happen.”


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