The leader of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party, Tomislav Karamarko, on Monday submitted to the party's central election commission 30,004 signatures for his candidacy for party president, underlining that he wanted to additionally strengthen the HDZ.
"The party has achieved a certain level in the last four years, but I want more. I'm not happy," Karamarko told reporters after submitting his candidacy for party president at the HDZ offices.
He said that in the next four years he would renew the party leadership and grassroots, underlining the importance of young and competent people. He added that he would focus on the implementation of the HDZ's economic platform, made in cooperation with the German IFO institute.
Asked if it was good for the party that he was the only candidate for its president, he said that in the last elections, in which party delegates had voted, he had defeated five candidates.
"The HDZ has 220,000 members, the number of signatures needed for a presidential candidacy is 5,000 and we will see if anyone will collect that many signatures."
Asked if the ruling coalition has sufficient support in the parliament for the budget proposal for 2016, he said that he expected the support of more than 82 MPs. "We have a majority in any case."
Commenting on an amendment put forward by the Bridge party and the HSLS party, the HDZ's coalition partners, that a part of the budget funds intended for political parties be reallocated for science, he said that a compromise would be found.
"We will find a compromise so that funds for political parties remain at last year's level. But we cannot make any further cuts in funds for political parties because we won't be able to function," he said, noting that no one had responded yet to his proposal that state officials' and MPs' salaries be cut by 25%.
Commenting on the selection of the head of the Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA), he said that delaying the process was not good, and noted that if the best candidate was chosen, he would be satisfied.
He also said that PM Tihomir Oreskovic was familiar with the two candidates he had proposed for that post.
The HDZ leader said that he would insist on competent, professional and politically independent staff at the Ministry of the Interior.
"If some people loyally served the SDP in the previous government's term and abused parts of the police system, they no longer belong there. That is my position, regardless of who they are. I will insist on that," he said, adding that he would definitely discuss that topic with Deputy PM Bozo Petrov and Minister of the Interior Vlaho Orepic.
He also noted that Minister Orepic "got carried away" when he said that it was good that the Bridge party participated in the government because otherwise all the power would be in Karamarko's and the HDZ's hands.
Asked when he would meet with Kreso Beljak, the newly-elected leader of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), which is a member of the HDZ-led Patriotic Coalition, and if he expected any problems with that coalition partner, Karamarko said that he did not expect any problems.
"Our relations with that party are strong. The HSS is a part of the Patriotic Coalition and that is functioning well," he said.
Elections for the new HDZ president will be held on April 17 on the principle "one member-one vote".