zoran milanović, tihomir orešković.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Lana SLIVAR DOMINIĆ/ lsd

Outgoing Prime Minister and Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Zoran Milanovic is unhappy that his party will not form the new government but is not admitting his election defeat and believes that nobody won the November 8 elections, and he has announced that the SDP will fight because the government to be formed by PM-designate Tihomir Oreskovic will be weak.

In an interview in the "Nedjeljom u dva" political talk show on Croatian Television on Sunday, Milanovic said that the SDP had lost the opportunity to form the government in post-election negotiations "very narrowly and in extra time."

"Nobody won the elections, the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) and Bridge will form the government and this is not over yet. We will fight, this will be a weak government, the Prime Minister-designate unfortunately will not only not be making decisions, even worse - there is a danger that he won't even be consulted," said Milanovic.

Asked to comment on the PM-designate, Milanovic said that he feared that someone coming from a position like Oreskovic's to the helm of a government was not a good solution.

Commenting on his own party, Milanovic said that since he came to its helm in 2007, "its shares have risen strongly, and now they have dropped slightly", adding that he hoped the coming campaign for intra-party elections would not cause any damage to the SDP.

Milanovic complained that good results in the party were interpreted as everybody's success, while failures were attributed only to him.

The SDP leader said that he had made the party more democratic, that he had introduced the model of electing the party leader based on the principle "one man, one vote", and he cited that mechanism as the reason for refusing to resign after the elections at which the SDP failed to stay in power. In elections for the party president, candidates compete for the trust of all party members, he said, adding that his tendering his resignation would be illogical because the party president was no longer elected by the most senior party body.

Asked how he had managed to lose the election to a rival whom he had described as the most incompetent of all candidates, Milanovic said that the HDZ was a powerful, organised party "with sinecures and trade-offs at the county level."

He also said that parties making up the outgoing coalition government had won more votes in the elections than the HDZ-led Patriotic Coalition and that the fact that the Istrian Democratic Party (IDS) had run in the elections on its own had prevented the loss of 30,000 to 40,000 votes.

"The following day, the IDS was with us at the same table, there was no doubt that their voters had voted for the continuation of our coalition."

He refused a comparison with the HDZ, which enjoys the support of some of the minority members of Parliament and Milan Bandic, saying: "Our relationship with the IDS was clear from the very beginning, while Bandic and the others waited for someone to buy them."

Milanovic complained about the SDP still being stigmatised as a communist party. "We are still being stigmatised to some extent as communists, which is unfair and sad, however, some Croatians can still be motivated by messages about communists staying in power."

Asked what he thought about his rival in the election for SDP leader, Zlatko Komadina, Milanovic said that he respected his achievements, but that elections were won more easily in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, where voters were traditionally inclined to vote for the SDP, than in Zagorje or in Pozega.

"Komadina is OK. Everyone in the party has their own history and their achievements. He is slightly older than I, as are some other party members, but it just so happens that I have more experience than they do," Milanovic said.

He went on to say that he had tried to establish closer relations with party members who in 2007 did not welcome his election as SDP president, including Komadina, but that his attempts were unsuccessful.

Speaking about attempts to form the government with the Bridge party, Milanovic reiterated that there had not been any hidden agenda on his part in those talks and that he had been willing to sign an agreement on a coalition government headed by Bridge leader Bozo Petrov.

Responding to the remark that he signed an agreement on a tripartite government even though he did not intend to honour it, Milanovic recalled that after the HDZ walked out of the negotiations, Petrov said that the HDZ could no longer return to the talks, and that he (Milanovic) signed the agreement after the HDZ had walked out of the negotiations.

Commenting on HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko's claims that he and Milanovic had agreed that neither would sign the offered agreement on a tripartite government, Milanovic said: "I didn't go around whining about what I agreed with Karamarko then and I won't do it now."

"I don't trust them, they cannot be trusted, they are people with no honour," he said, and when asked why he had been willing to cooperate with people with no honour, Milanovic said that the SDP-led coalition had been ready to cooperate with parties from the Patriotic Coalition, as stated in the agreement. He said that this did not refer to the HDZ, but the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) and the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS).

Milanovic insisted that some of the parties in the Patriotic Coalition were promoting Ustasha ideology.

"Parties that promote April 10, that have Pavelic's picture in their offices, those parties are pro-Ustasha parties. At least two parties in the Patriotic Coalition are pro-Ustasha parties, plus the HDZ which orchestrates and encourages it from a distance," he said.

Asked why he did not condemn such behaviour in his own party, for example Split Mayor Ivo Baldasar's attendance at the unveiling of a monument bearing the name of an Ustasha commander, Milanovic said that those were "tactical and sub-tactical compromises that have to be made in politics."

He said that Baldasar's act had been a "stab to my shoulder" and that he had expected "the people (in Split County) who are now joining in the election campaign (for SDP president) and who kept silent at the time, to condemn it."

He also described as a political tactic his not having distanced himself from the Croatian Democratic Party of Slavonia and Baranja (HDSSB). "There is no way we would have asked for their support or formed the 76-member parliamentary majority with the help of their votes," Milanovic said, adding that HDSSB founder Branimir Glavas was a product of the HDZ and that he had no intention of becoming involved in political score-settling among right-wing parties.

Commenting on HDZ official Miro Kovac's announcement that Croatia could close its border to refugees if necessary and if Slovenia and Austria did so, Milanovic said that Croatia had passed a test of humanity and that "we can always easily become traders of barbed wire."

"I find that personally repulsive. I like (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel and despise narrow-minded people, but it's clear that nobody will allow Croatia turning into a hot spot."

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