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Mr. Sanader presented himself as a conservative patriot and economic modernizer. Instead, these were ideological veneers for an insular, authoritarian kleptocracy. Even his single accomplishment, Croatia’s entry into NATO, was ham-handed: The majority of the electorate opposed it.

Some states have a mafia; the Croatian mafia has a state. Under Mr. Sanader, the regime consolidated its links with the murky Balkan underworld of organized crime, nefarious entrepreneurs, shadowy intelligence services and the former communist nomenklatura. The result is a criminal state capitalism that privileges the ruling elite while exploiting and degrading most Croatians.

Mr. Sanader’s resignation should trigger not only early parliamentary elections, but an independent prosecution of his criminal activities. In America, Bernard Madoff was sentenced recently to 150 years in prison for defrauding investors. Mr. Sanader has defrauded Croatia’s taxpayers. He - and all of his accomplices - also should be sent to jail. That would be a fitting end to his disastrous tenure.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute, a Washington think tank.