- The Washington Times - Monday, July 1, 2002

Croatia's main conservative opposition party is facing an internal revolt as high-ranking officials plan to break away and establish a new political movement devoted to the legacy of the late President Franjo Tudjman.
"We are prepared to start a new, broad-based movement or political party based on Franjo Tudjman's ideas," said a senior official of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"We have had serious talks about the issue. It is 80 percent decided upon. There are other conservative parties that are involved in the negotiations," the official said, adding: "All that is left is to discuss the details and the timing of the creation of this new movement, not the big issues. There is agreement on the general ideas and vision for the new party."
Mr. Tudjman led Croatia's successful bid for independence in 1991. The nationalist leader ruled the former Yugoslav republic until his death in late 1999. His party, the HDZ, was defeated in general elections early the next year by the current center-left ruling coalition led by ex-Communist Ivica Racan.
The HDZ has been embroiled in bitter infighting since the re-election of party chief Ivo Sanader at a leadership convention in late April. Mr. Sanader, 49, narrowly defeated Ivic Pasalic in the leadership race.
The 41-year-old Mr. Pasalic and his supporters have been the target of a purge campaign by Mr. Sanader. Several weeks ago at a Central Committee meeting, a majority loyal to Mr. Sanader voted to strip Mr. Pasalic of his position as president of the HDZ Charitable Foundation, the party's educational organ. Pro-Pasalic members were prevented by Mr. Sanader's forces from voting in the closed-door meeting.
Mr. Sanader has sought to marginalize Mr. Pasalic in the party, claiming that he is a perennial rival who represents the "negative aspects" of the HDZ's past. Mr. Pasalic, a former adviser to Mr. Tudjman, has been accused in the media of overseeing the shady privatization measures that occurred during the 1990s when the HDZ ruled Croatia. But none of the accusations has been substantiated.
"My poll numbers are up by seven points since we marginalized Pasalic," Mr. Sanader said in an interview. "He is conducting parallel politics within the party, and I cannot accept this."
However, the creation of a new, broad-based conservative party would badly damage the electoral prospects of the HDZ, which is ahead in opinion polls and expected to win general elections that could be called as early as this fall.
"I think it's bad for Croatia's political environment. You're stronger if you have united forces against the ruling Social Democrats," said a top aide to Mr. Sanader, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Many high-ranking HDZ officials say that Mr. Sanader's campaign against Mr. Pasalic is dividing the party and creating an opening for a new conservative movement on the Croatian political scene.
"Sanader's recent public statements in which he called for the HDZ to become a liberal party and calling for a coalition with the ruling Social Democratic Party is a betrayal of the HDZ's legacy," the senior HDZ official said. "There is now political space for creating a new movement similar to Tudjman's efforts in 1990 to 1991."
Mr. Sanader, however, insists that "I will not create a coalition with the Social Democrats under any circumstances."
The official said that the new party would be called HDZ Franjo Tudjman, and that it would be led by Mr. Pasalic and the late president's son, Miroslav Tudjman.
The new party's platform would focus on creating a free-market economy. It would also champion an "independent foreign policy" that seeks to defend national interests while promoting Croatia's entry into the European Union and NATO.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide