Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) president Andrej Plenkovic said in Osijek on Monday the HDZ was running in the upcoming parliamentary election to win and that its candidates deserved a chance for a fresh start and not those of the People's Coalition who, under the Zoran Milanovic cabinet, were incapable of achieving their goals.

Speaking at an election rally, Plenkovic said the HDZ would pay special attention to Slavonia after the polls with a new farmland law, a new law on family farms, better absorption of development programme funds and better financing for farmers.

"Our platform is oriented towards jobs, competitiveness, a society in which work is appreciated. We don't want to raise tensions but solve problems," he said.

In an interview with RTL TV, Plenkovic said Social Democratic Party (SDP) president Zoran Milanovic was "used up, deja vu" and that the two of them were completely different. "If people want to choose what was bad, let them choose him. Those who want to choose what is good, they can choose me."

As for Milanovic's claims that Plenkovic was not credible, Plenkovic said his political orientation was unquestionable and that the SDP-led People's Coalition had a credibility issue when it came to social democracy principles.

Commenting on the Bridge party's demands as a condition for cooperation in the next government, he said some of the points were interesting and acceptable in principle but that he would "approach everything integrally in negotiations in the post-election stage."

He said a coalition with the SDP was not possible but that he could talk about strategic national interests with Milanovic and all political stakeholders.

Plenkovic said the outgoing government could boast about a 2.8% economic growth in the second quarter of this year and that this was not so thanks to Milanovic, as he claimed, but Finance Minister Zdravko Maric.

He said his goal was to restore credibility to Croatian politics. "I'm changing the HDZ. The HDZ I want is well-defined and positioned on the centre-right in the family of European people's parties."

Asked if he felt the burden of the HDZ's indictment for corruption, Plenkovic said he was not its member when the party was led by Ivo Sanader. "But I will take a responsible approach as the new leader and see that the party's interests in the trial are protected because the party was unable to react to what individuals were doing. Everything that wasn't good I, as the HDZ leader since July 17, will try to rectify and I regret every mistake that my predecessors made."

He called on citizens not to disperse votes on parties which would not cross the electoral threshold. "I don't want a repetition of what we had last year, when we had to experiment. I want a stable government and a majority in which the HDZ will be the leader because I think that's what Croatian people deserve."

Commenting on Sisak Bishop Vlado Kosic's calls during mass on Sunday against voting for certain parties, Plenkovic said Church and state were clearly separated but that this did not mean that the Church did not have the right to voice its position on important social issues.

Manfred Weber, who heads the European People's Party Group in the European Parliament, has supported the HDZ in the September 11 parliamentary election.

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