Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Zoran Milanovic said on Tuesday that Prime Minister-Designate Tihomir Oreskovic "may be good at what he does, but he is not independent or neutral, he is the candidate of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)."

"They say they were preparing him to be the Minister of Finance. He was chosen by the HDZ and not by (the Bridge party). That's clear to everyone," Milanovic said in an interview with the RTL commercial television network in the evening. "The question is how decisions will be made. My experience is, if you are a small country, then you have a problem. And if such a country is represented by a weak politician, then they play around with you."

Milanovic said that his government had been "a natural centre of decision making" in the country. "It was clear who those people were and who they were accountable to. That's not the case now. We stood up against the banks and centres of power. Do you expect that from this government? No way," he said.

Commenting on a statement by his party colleague, Split Mayor Ivo Baldasar, that the SDP leadership should resign, Milanovic said that since 2007 there have been "more or less the same people in the party" who were opposed to anything the party did. "Mr Baldasar has experienced a strange transformation, especially after April 10 this year when he laid wreaths on the anniversary of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH)," he said, referring to the Nazi-style Ustasha regime that had ruled Croatia during World War II.

Milanovic elaborated on his earlier statement that the Bridge party had decided to join a "criminal, spy and pro-Ustasha coalition", saying that it included people indicted for crimes and that Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Tomislav Karamarko and "his clique" had connections with spies.

"There is not a country in Europe where this position is held by a former secret service chief who was found to have been involved in wrongdoing. It's another matter that the DORH (State Prosecutor's Office) did nothing about it," Milanovic said.

"If the HCSP (Croatian Pure Party of Rights) is a spiritual renewal organisation, then it's all right, but I don't think so. They are partners to the HDZ, and even the HSP Ante Starcevic party renounced them. These are the facts, and that is how Croatia has been poisoned for four years," he said while explaining what he had meant by referring to the ruling majority as a pro-Ustasha coalition.

When asked why then the SDP had been willing to form a tripartite government with them, Milanovic said that in all documents they had insisted on two criteria: "All the thieves must be removed, the parties must renounce them, and anyone who intimidates minorities and spreads ethnic, religious and even racial intolerance should not be allowed to sit at the same table with them.  Never once did I back down from this nor would I ever do that."

Speaking of secret meetings with representatives of the Bridge party, which prompted Bridge leader Bozo Petrov to terminate negotiations with the SDP-led coalition, Milanovic said that those meetings had taken place at the start of December and at the request of people from Bridge. "I must say that those people were quite fair to Bridge and even to Petrov. It was just that they were haunted by certain things and felt very badly about it."

He would not say how many of the Bridge people were involved in those meetings or who they were, but noted that most of them were interested in becoming members of Parliament. "They used this to hold them in check, which led to an impasse and then happened what happened."

Milanovic said he believed the SDP would be a tough opposition. "Now they will try to euthanise Croatia and make wimps out of all of us, but they will not succeed. We'll give them hell."

Milanovic said he would run for another term as SDP leader at the next party elections "not because I think that the party can't do without me or that it needs me more than ever, but because I think that now is the time when we must prevent this euthanasia. ... I am still younger than many, but I am the most experienced. In this country I am the most experienced," he stressed.

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