A Readout of the Croatian and Slovenian Elections
Croatia On December 4, Croatians went to the polls to choose the government that will lead them into the European Union in 2013. Tired of numerous political corruption scandals, the most high profile of which was the arrest of a former prime minister, Ivo Sanader (from the conservative HDZ party), and despite the recent anti-corruption drive of the new prime minister, Jadranka Kosor (also HDZ), voters chose a center-left coalition government - The Kukuriku coalition - comprised of the Social Democrats, the Pensioners Party, the Croatian Peoples Party, and a Regional party, the Istrian Democratic Assembly.
It was a surprise result even to the winners. In his victory speech, Zoran Milanovic, the Kukuriku candidate for prime minister, declared that the future politics of the Croatian government will be justice and fair payment, with modern values but with respect for tradition. The new Croatian government will be comprised of people who have clearly thought about what problems need urgent attention in the country. They have held meetings and gatherings since 2009, carefully planning their future steps toward victory. However, their aim included not only winning the elections. This coalition is aware that it will be called on to make tough decisions on budget cuts to handle the country's economic downturn.
This coalition is aware that now is the opportunity to finally reconcile all the national groups within the country. And this coalition is aware of the necessity of regional cross-Balkan cooperation and of the importance of good neighborly relations where dialogue and compromise are the key words. Or, as Milanovic said, embracing it all, “We will do everything for Croatia to become a good place to live in.” Though he had every reason for triumph, his speech was serious and expressed concerns about the difficulties awaiting Croatia and its new government. The new dawn for Croatia brought a lot of sunshine, but it will be hard to keep it from becoming cloudy given the economic and political realities. Continued support from the European Union and the United States will help chase those clouds away. Slovenian Elections In Slovenia, it was a real surprise where Ljubljana mayor Zoran Jankovic claimed victory in their recent elections.
The center-left government of Borut Pahor lost its confidence vote in September this year due to the austerity package meant to fix the financial crisis. Pahor is the latest in a series of eurozone leaders who were toppled by the sovereign debt crisis. Jankovic faces a series of negotiation talks as now everything depends on the willingness of the other parties to form a stable government capable of addressing the crisis. The problem here is that his potential collaborators are quite different in their political nature since one is the Democratic Party of Pensioners, which is strongly against the idea of budget cuts to the public sector, and the other is Civic List and its leader Gregor Virant, a moderate liberal whose party is supportive of drastic measures such as rapid privatization -- something with which Jankovic himself is not comfortable. He would prefer a corporate approach in state management of currently public-run companies, but such a government could prove impotent to repairing the damage; there would be a scramble for concessions, which would lead to further financial and political complications, potentially ending in another round of special and early elections.
Gordana Delic is the Director of the German Marshall Fund's Balkan Trust for Democracy in Belgrade.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.