The proposed referendum is sure to cause turmoil in Croatian politics.
“Do you support the idea that national minority Members of Parliament should be elected on the basis of general elections rules, just like all other MPs?” This is as of yet unofficial version of a referendum question that representatives of the rightwing associations and initiatives intend to organise, reports Jutarnji List on September 16, 2017.
The referendum aims to amend the Electoral Law so that national minority representatives would no longer be elected on special candidate lists. The primary targets of the initiative are Serb leader in Croatia Milorad Pupovac and his Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS).
“Pupovac has been blackmailing Croatian governments for years, and he is, in fact, implementing Serbia’s policies and keeping the whole of Croatia as a hostage. That is why we now have extensive consultations with non-governmental and veterans’ organizations, as well as some political parties, on the possible organization of the referendum, with the aim of ending the situation in which decisions are made by MPs elected with several hundred votes,” said Anto Đapić, a veteran politician who is now a member of the Osijek Town Council.
According to him, organisers are currently consulting with constitutional experts about the version of the referendum question, as well as the organisational issues, since the signatures will be collected at 1,500 locations all over Croatia. Reportedly, there is no danger that the Constitutional Court might ban the referendum because changes in the electoral legislation are a legitimate issue for a referendum, and organisers would not expel minority representatives from the Parliament, but would just modify the system of their election.
So, the current eight MPs would remain but, due to the small number of voters who support national minorities’ parties, they would most likely be substituted by Serbs, Hungarians, Italians and others who run on candidate lists submitted by major parties, SDP, HDZ, IDS and others. A similar proposal was filed many years ago by Mato Arlović (SDP), who is now a Constitutional Court justice, but he withdrew it after criticism. Elections at the local government level are done using similar system.
A few days ago, Željka Markić, one of the leaders of the rightwing conservative movement in Croatia, said that the electoral law should be changed. “Once it is done, the law will be fair and democratic, and representatives of national minorities will no longer be able to decide on the budget or the support for the government – just like in other EU member states,” said Markić.
To call a referendum for amending the constitution, it is necessary to collect signatures of 10 percent of all voters, which is currently 404,252. Đapić is convinced that the referendum to change the electoral law will be supported by at least half a million citizens. “We will not cut down on anybody’s rights, but we want decisions on Croatia to be determined by political Croats, and not by minority politicians,” concluded Đapić.
It is likely that the referendum would be deemed as constitutional because it does not violate the rights of minorities. “Without deeper analysis, I would say that this does not endanger the rights of minorities, provided that minorities have guaranteed seats in the Parliament in the future as well. But, first, we have to wait for a more specific proposal,” said Sanja Barić, a constitutional lawyer from Rijeka.
Peđa Grbin (SDP) shares his view. “We need to see the proposal, but the Constitution does not forbid changes to the Electoral Law.”
The eight national minority MPs are elected to Parliament with just a handful of votes, but they have the same rights as other 140 MPs elected on regular lists and three diaspora MPs. The current government depends on their support for its majority.
Translated from Jutarnji List.