South Asia and Beyond

Croatia’s President Calls Snap Polls In April, Says He Will Run As Prime Minister

 Croatia’s President Calls Snap Polls In April, Says He Will Run As Prime Minister

President Sergio Mattarella with Zoran Milanović, President of the Republic of Croatia, on the occasion of his official visit to Italy. Source; Wikimedia Commons

Controversy continues in Croatian politics as Croatia’s president Zoran Milanović has called for elections on April 17 and decided that he will run for prime minister. The move is unusual because the president has defied a ruling by Croatia’s top court, which ruled on March 18 that he must step down before he can run for prime minister.

In its judgement, the court had said that if Milanović becomes “a candidate for [prime minister] of the Republic of Croatia or another public or professional duty,” it would be “incompatible with his constitutional position and powers, and the principle of separation of powers.” Lashing out against the top court’s judgment, the president had labelled them “illiterate peasants” and “annoying stable flies.” He even accused them of being “gangsters.”

President Milanović is currently a member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) which is currently the party in Opposition. Croatia follows the parliamentary system, so the president’s post is seen as a more decorative one while the prime minister holds most of the power. Milanovic was prime minister of Croatia from 2011-16 after which he ran for presidential elections and won. He was elected president in 2020.

A DW report also points out that Milanović’s party the SDP hasn’t officially put him forward as their candidate, but he has said that if his party wins, he will be the elected prime minister.

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Milanović has also trained his guns on current prime minister Andrej Plenković who is in the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). He said the country was in the control of “thieves” with the “mentality of cattle rustlers” and promised that the “rivers of justice” would flow should he be elected. Not surprisingly, the PM has hit back stating that his announcement has motivated them to beat him and the SDP for the third time.Plenković tweeted: “April 17 is World Circus Day. And to make the circus even bigger, Milanović decided to join the elections with SDP.”

Despite the fighting rhetoric, the government has big problems. Croatia has seen street protests from almost every sector of the middle class. From teachers, judges, and doctors wanting better salaries to journalists opposing the changes to the Criminal Code to criminalise publish leaks, the government seems very unpopular right now with the voting public. This is what Milanović believes could be his political opportunity.

If Milanović should win, the prime ministerial elections, policies are likely to shift, especially with regard to Ukraine. He had told reporters in January that it is “mad” to believe that Russia can be defeated in a conventional war and that he would not send any arms to Ukraine. This is in contrast to Plenković who has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and met President Zelensky. Plenkovic has called Milanović  “Putin’s useful idiot.”

Ashwin Ahmad

Traveller, bibliophile and wordsmith with a yen for international relations. A journalist and budding author of short fiction, life is a daily struggle to uncover the latest breaking story while attempting to be Hemingway in the self-same time. Focussed especially on Europe and West Asia, discussing Brexit, the Iran crisis and all matters related is a passion that endures to this day. Believes firmly that life without the written word is a life best not lived. That’s me, Ashwin Ahmad.