The Message of Croatian Elections

ZAGREB: Barely two months after Franjo Tudjman's death, Croatia is a different country. Years of political fear have been washed away in just a few days. Last month, parliamentary elections dealt a mortal blow to Tudjmans' monolithic party, HDZ. This week, the opposition's Stipe Mesic won Croatia's presidency. Tudjman, long an object of dread, has vanished from the political screen, taking into oblivion the ideological clutter that made Croatia a pariah state.

Despite an electoral law favoring it, Tudjman's mammoth organization has been reduced to a mere 40 seats in the 151-seat lower chamber of the Sabor (parliament). The coalition of Ivica Ra an's ex-Communists (SDP) and Drazen Budiša's right-liberals (HSLS), known as §the Two", hold 71 seats. The allied coalition of §the Four ¨ (Peasant Party, Liberal Party, National Party, and the Istrian regionalists), which together with "the Two ¨ make up a new governing coalition called §the Six", won an additional 24 seats, meaning that the new premier, Ivica Račan, a former head of Croatia's defunct League of Communists and the man who yielded power to Tudjman in 1990, has a comfortable majority, but not the two-thirds needed to change Tudjman's constitution of excessive presidential power.

The consequences of HDZ's collapse shaped the presidential contest. HDZ's candidate, Tudjman's reputedly moderate foreign minister Mate Granic, whom pundits declared an easy winner, confronted two adversaries – Drazen Budiša, the candidate of §the Two", and Stipe Mesic, whom §the Four ¨ put forth almost as an afterthought. Stipe Mesic edged Granic out of the race in the first round (24 January) and defeated Budiša decisively in the second round (7 February).

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.


By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.