zoran milanović.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Daniel KASAP/ dk

Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Zoran Milanovic held a news conference on Wednesday, saying that the public should be told on what grounds President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Tuesday extended consultations with elected members of Parliament, namely whom the Bridge reformist party and the Patriotic Coalition supported as the Prime Minister-designate, and calling on Bridge again to say clearly who had exerted pressure on its elected members of Parliament and who those members were.

"As we know, under the Constitution... the Prime Minister-designate can be only one person, one human being, not two. We have not been given an answer to that question. (Tomislav) Karamarko came with signatures as did Bozo Petrov. I had 66 signatures, plus one by a person who publicly supported our coalition, that's 67 signatures, and there were no dilemmas about that or any suspicion of anything immoral... Conversely, we don't know whom the people in Bridge supported, at 6 pm yesterday there was no Prime Minister-designate, and the public should be given a very clear answer to that, for the sake of the credibility of the election process and basic trust in state institutions and the President, who is currently under huge pressure. Let's say we understand her position, but she owes an answer to the public, everyone is waiting for it," said Milanovic.

He added that that question should be put to the politicians concerned over and over again, "otherwise the state is not run by institutions."

Milanovic confirmed that this afternoon he would go again to the President's Office for consultations, and when asked if he had reconciled himself to the new situation, he said: "Never reconciled, never has it happened that I am not ready to fight."

"The problem we have as a party is that for all our victories and voters' will to take the form of an institution, they must be convincing. When we win, we have to win convincingly, when the result is narrow, unfortunately we have to deal with people who are ready for anything, as is now the case."

He underlined that the SDP had not expected the twist that occurred on Tuesday and that it had been prepared to support Bridge leader Bozo Petrov as the Prime Minister-designate.

"For some reason, there was no willingness to do that, and now we can see what the reasons were... We have not received so much as a hint as to who was exposed to pressure and why any of us would do such a thing since an agreement was already reached. I think that this is clear to everyone in Croatia," said Milanovic.

Asked if he felt cheated and when he had realised that this was a "game involving the HDZ", Milanovic said that he was still not sure if that was true.

"I still don't know if that is true. I know that there are people (in Bridge) who negotiated with us sincerely and in good faith, but nobody pressured them or pulled at their sleeves. I believe that that is the case with the majority of Bridge members, and what is happening now is a breaking up of Bridge. I have been saying from the beginning that they are a partner as a whole group and we had conducted negotiations with them until Monday in that manner. Now it is becoming less and less clear what Bridge is, who exerted pressure on some of the Bridge members and what is going on behind the scenes. We have heard some very loud prelates of the Catholic Church describing us as communist liars. Those are the facts, pay attention to them, they speak more than what seems to be going on behind the scenes."

Asked if the President had breached the procedure by extending consultations in her office, Milanovic just shrugged.

The SDP leader said that he called the news conference because after yesterday's twist in which Bridge decided to terminate negotiations with the SDP-led Croatia Is Growing coalition and to continue them with the Patriotic Coalition "many things have remained unclear."

He repeated that SDP members had not exerted any pressure whatsoever on Bridge MPs and that that would have been illogical since the two sides had agreed on 95% of what was important to form a new government.

"For the sake of morality, conscience and democratic rules, we call for people who were allegedly pressured and people who exerted pressure to be identified, after which we can talk about whether such an accusation makes any sense and what form the pressure took. Maybe the form of talking Bridge people into seeking all ministries? That simply makes no sense and the public must know it and be able to see it. Repeated questions from the press yesterday did not result in even a hint of an answer, but in avoiding an answer."

Asked if he was familiar with the name of Damir Vandjelic, who has been mentioned in political circles as a possible Prime Minister-designate and if it would be good to have a person from the business community as the Prime Minister, Milanovic said the name did not mean anything to him.

"There are competent and clever people, but they do not have political legitimacy and that would be very dangerous in a democracy, even though, to be honest, we did open the possibility of talks on that topic as well. However, there is no candidate in reality... I do not know who that person is, but I believe that it is very dangerous for democracy... to be making decisions on the most important post in the country in that way," said Milanovic.

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