Social Democratic Party  (SDP) Vice President Zlatko Komadina on Monday confirmed that he would run as candidate for the party's president at the election set for March 12 and that he intended to reinstate members who had been expelled from the party.

"I  confirm that I will announce my candidacy when the Main Committee calls the election," Komadina said after a meeting of the party's presidency which unanimously decided on the election date for the party's leader.

The main committee is scheduled to convene on January 23.

Komadina is optimistic and believes that he has a good chance of becoming the SDP's new president and expects the support of younger party members, women and middle-aged men.

Asked whether he would face his rival, incumbent party leader Zoran Milanovic, in a public debate, Komadina said that this was an internal party election and candidates appealed to party members. "By my judgement this is an internal party election and we appeal to members. I know that it is important who will be the future president of SDP and the public has a right to know, but I do not support the idea of making a show of internal matters. Nevertheless, I am ready for anything," he said.

His campaign slogan will be a new, better and stronger SDP, "an SDP in which members participate and members make the decisions at all levels, not an autocratic rule, no Machiavellism. To the left and not liberal or neo-liberal," he said.

Asked whether Milanovic was heading the party autocratically, Komadina said: "Absolutely. The Statute is centralist. It has to be changed and the party has to be decentralised. People in the field have to be consulted and propose policies. The SDP needs a new Statute and a well, redesigned programme. It has to be socially sensitive and democratic."

He confirmed that he would reinstate expelled party members like Slavko Linic and Aleksandra Kolaric. "It would be normal to declare an amnesty. Whoever wants to return to the organisation can and has a right to. SDP has to attract and not disperse. We have to open up a dialogue, attract free-minded people, open topics up to the public, from the unions and working population. The times are tough, neo-liberalism in Europe and the world, but we must not give up," Komadina added.

Asked whether he expected anyone else to run for president apart from himself and Milanovic, he said that his "intuition tells him there will only be two." "There would have been two even if the SDP were to have formed the government," he added.

Senior party officials of the SDP's Zagreb branch,  Rajko Ostojic and Davor Bernardic, support Komadina's candidacy. "Unfortunately at the meeting of the presidency we did not get a report or analysis of the parliamentary election nor any deep analytical tables. The result of the parliamentary election is crystal clear. In four years we managed to bring the HDZ into government and the president's office. Naturally, there were some good things but there were also some big mistakes. And what is left now. The dilemma is absolutely clear - to either continue on this path or stimulate changes. I support Zlatko Komadina and that is absolutely clear," Ostojic said.

On the other hand, Bernardic said that political parties learn from their victories and defeats. "We have to be aware that we lost at this election. We won 30% fewer seats and lost 150,000 votes. The SDP needs changes. Zlatko Komadina is a man from the field, a man who won at the local election and who can instigate changes from the ground level and gather the SDP's divided left and ensure its return to government in the shortest possible time.  There is room in the SDP for all and the incumbent president Zoran Milanovic, but there isn't (room) for policies like 'us or them'", Bernardic said.

The head of the SDP's Main Committee Josip Leko did not attend today's meeting and excused himself due to illness.

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