Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader and former Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic would not speculate on Monday if his party's motion for the impeachment of First Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko would receive the necessary majority support in the parliament but was confident that the vote would show that Karamarko did not enjoy the support of a majority of MPs.
Milanovic made the statement in an interview with Nova TV, noting that he was not following the current developments between the partners in the government "either with amusement or with approval."
„We launched the initiative for a vote of no confidence in a government member, more specifically the First Deputy Prime Minister, who, unfortunately, is also the leader of the biggest party in the government. The facts are clear to everyone, there is nothing to be established, it's clear what happened. An amazing overlapping of interests of a small circle of people that are anything but national interests. We called on Mr Karamarko to step down and when he failed to do it, we submitted the motion, gathered the minimum number of signatures required and after that, you saw what happened,“ said the SDP chief.
He would not speculate about whether the parliament would actually vote no confidence in Karamarko, which, he recalled, would be the first such case in the history of parliamentary democracy in Croatia.
Milanovic stressed, however, that he did not see how Karamarko could get the support of the ruling majority.
Asked how many hands the SDP currently had to back its motion, he said that he could not say, but that judging by what could be heard in public, the number was significantly higher than the necessary majority of all deputies.
„However, the HDZ is announcing that it about to start a hunt for deputies, and we know what that means,“ he added.
Asked if Karamarko's fall would necessarily mean the fall of the government, Milanovic said that there actually was no government, adding that proof of that were appointments by Transport Minister Oleg Butkovic in several companies within his remit, which happened on Monday and which Milanovic claims are unlawful.
„There is no government, it is not making decisions. Here is one example - today a minister made a decision on appointments and replacements in state-owned companies. The decision is null and void, it should have been prepared and put forward by the government, more specifically the Ministry of Transport, HAC (motorway operator), HZ (railway operator), the decisions made concern replacements of members of (the companies') management boards. They were made by the minister alone. They are unlawful according to several laws. That is why I am saying that there is no government because if there were one, it would have made those decisions,“ he said.
Asked if Karamarko's replacement would also mean a new election, Milanovic said that a decision on an early election should be made by the parliament, which would have to dissolve itself. Asked if such a course of events seemed logical to him, he said that it did not have to do with logic but „some unstoppable social rules.“
„This way one can delude the public for some time, but in a few weeks it will become completely clear that there is no parliamentary majority, that over a period of three months it managed to gather together once, a month ago, and that the government isn't functioning. I believe that that will become obvious regardless of any formal logic, simply as a social imperative."
"This vote on confidence is not a trial before a court of law, it's not about determining if there has been a conflict of interest. It's simply a statement by each member of Parliament about what separates acceptable and completely unacceptable things in public life, and what we have seen in the case of the HDZ leader is completely unacceptable,“ said Milanovic.
He said that he was worried that after its electoral convention this past Saturday, the HDZ had shut itself „in a political bunker.“ „It is a logical, political and psychological bunker in which they do not see what is happening around them.“
The SDP president went on to say that an early election was inevitable.
„We can see already that there is no parliamentary majority, people from Bridge are saying it, the Bridge leader is saying it. I believe that Croatia will eventually not be able to avoid it (early election). We tried after the parliamentary election to form a big parliamentary majority with Bridge, we know what happened, they walked away, to this day they have not explained why. I believe it would be illusory now to expect a Copernican revolution, or a salto mortale. Neither Bridge is talking about it, nor are we. The only one who is against the election is the HDZ because they would lose it,“ said Milanovic.
He is confident that the SDP will run in the new election in a broader coalition than was the case in the last election, but he would not be more specific as to the parties the coalition would be expanded with.
He dismissed reports that he had forbidden SDP deputies to leave Zagreb until a parliamentary debate on Karamarko, but stressed that it was very important for MPs to learn in time when the parliament would hold the debate and vote.
„What I do expect, considering the HDZ's bad parliamentary practice, is that they will now start recruiting (MPs)... and I call on anyone who should encounter such pressure and be approached that way, to report it to the police and the state prosecutor and make it public. We want to know when the debate will be held and when the vote will be taken because MPs also have other obligations,“ Milanovic said.
Asked about an investigation by European auditors against Tihomir Jakovina, who served as Agriculture Minister in his government, over 22 disputable cases worth around 500 million kuna, Milanovic said that the money had not been allocated yet and that farmers would not suffer any damage because of it. „No one has managed to convince me that there is any responsibility on the part of the minister himself,“ he said.
Asked why he had not publicly supported Boris Jokic, who recently resigned as the head of a national expert team in charge of an integral curricular reform, Milanovic said that it was entirely clear that he supported Jokic and his team because he had personally chosen them.
„Jokic was our choice, if they don't want him, let them replace him,“ Milanovic said, adding that he was glad that a protest would be held in support of Jokic but he did not say if he would attend it.