Andrej Plenković.jpg
Photograph: Hina/ Dario GRZELJ/ dag

The sole candidate for the new leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Andrej Plenkovic on Wednesday submitted his candidacy, supported by 35,000 signatures, to the party's election commission and announced the presentation of his programme for Friday.

Plenkovic said that he would embark on the election "committedly, optimistically and energetically as well as with ideas and competences necessary for the well-being of Croatia and the HDZ,  the biggest and the strongest political party in the country".

Plenkovic, a Croatian member of the European Parliament, said in his statement to the press that he would like to see contenders in the HDZ leadership race which would be beneficial to the strengthening of the intra-party democracy and dialogue.

The election for the HDZ leader will be held on 17 July after Tomislav Karamarko recently stepped down as the party leader following his failure to ensure a new majority for a new HDZ-led government in the eighth parliament in the wake of the ouster of the Tihomir Oreskovic cabinet.

Plenkovic will conduct the campaign for his leadership bid under the slogan "HDZ as pivotal power of Croatia's progress" and the head of his team is Damir Krsticevic, while his spokesman is Davor Stier, another MEP from the HDZ ranks.

Asked by the press about his inquiry about details surrounding a loan the HDZ had taken from a private company, Plenkovic said that this was not only about whether the borrowing was in line with law but also about a political choice and why a loan had been taken.

In 2014 and 2015, the HDZ took a loan from the Gas Trading d.o.o. established by the "Prvo Plinarsko Drustvo", a company whose main lines of business are import, sale, supply and distribution of natural gas. The company is owned by Pavao Vujnovac who has recently publicly accused the HDZ of being late in repaying the loan.

"It is not usual that the HDZ presidency members were not informed about the matter. If it was so, I will insist on the political responsibility of those who decided on (borrowing)," Plenkovic said. He said that he expected to get more information from a report he requested from the party secretary-general Domagoj Milosevic.

The future HDZ leader underscored that the HDZ must be financed in a transparent fashion and in accordance with the relevant legislation and that all in the party leadership must be informed about sources of the party's funding.

As for some speculations that the party's rule book may be soon amended to reduce the powers of the party leader, Plenkovic said that such speedy amendments were not a priority ahead of a snap parliamentary election.

He said that during his leadership the HDZ would be a right-of-centre party based on Christian democracy and focused on state-building and conciliatory policies pursued by the HDZ founder and the first Croatian president Franjo Tudjman,

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