Repeatedly Rigged Elections in Croatia and
The Lessons of Georgia's Revolution in 2003
December 4, 2011 - Zagreb - The Balkan nation Croatia will hold its parliamentary elections with the knowledge that over 550,000 illegal votes will determine the final election results. According to the research conducted by anticorruption leader Radovan Smokvina, Croatia's elections have been marred by a disproportionate percentage of illegal votes - an alarming minimum 17% (based on the 550,000 figure) that blocks the voice of legitimate voters. This past week in Croatia, Branko Hrvatin, the nation's "election czar" who also happens to hold the president's seat in the supreme court (supposedly upholding the rule law) admitted that there are 500,000 - 1,000,000 illegal voters in the voter list. However, Mr Branko Hrvatin swiftly commented that the clean-up of the voter list is not within his jurisdiction.
Mr Hrvatin's written statement to Mr Smokvina in 2007 was identical to last week's confession as the Croatian election authorities deny responsibility for the election process. However, the election agency does have very strict rules to disqualify political parties - especially the newer political groups challenging the corrupt political establishment. Both major political groups - the corruption-ridden HDZ and communist SDP have blocked efforts to clean the list. In the Rijeka area, allegations of corruption are rife as four judges have received luxury apartments from the City of Rijeka controlled by the SDP political party.
Hence, Croatia's past presidential election held in 2009 took place under the cloud of an unlawful election. Croatia's President Ivo Josipovic, a former SDP parliamentarian has utterly failed to address this most glaring issue of fraudulent elections which is a direct assault to liberty and democracy. Mr Josipovic has come under the spotlight for unexplained wealth as stated by local independent media reports and is opposed to confiscation of illicit enrichment amassed by corrupt politicians and the former Tito apparatchiks.
Croatia, a Balkan nation about to enter the European Union does not have free and fair elections. As reform-oriented nations around the world strive to create greater transparency, Croatia, a known laggard has taken a path toward aiding a corrupt system. Its politicians have a sordid track record of trampling on individual liberty and human rights. More than 1 million back logged court cases are trapped in the parlous judicial system, some for more than 20 years. Croatia's national and regional government structures and political operatives have taken advantage of Croatia's lawlessness and have confiscated private property belonging to legitimate owners. In most respected global indices, Croatia's property rights are on par to African nations led by the rule of man.
There are intriguing similarities of Croatia and Georgia prior to the Rose Revolution. The Georgians lived under a corrupt and decrepit system. One of the final straws included Georgia's communist structures to rig the parliamentary elections. A piece published in The Washington Post on November 30, 2003 says it best:
"Although there were many reasons for Georgia's precipitous economic and social decline, including civil conflict and the transformation from a Soviet planned economy to a market-based one, corruption made the experience all the more painful. The last straw came four weeks ago, when efforts by Georgian officials to rig the parliamentary elections became a catalyst for a population humiliated, tired and impoverished by more than a decade of Shevardnadze's rule."
The question posed before the Croatian taxpayer and voter is as follows:
Will Croatia's citizens choose to follow the path chosen by a corrupt political elite toward greater economic hardship, oppression and corruption or will its citizens rise up and begin a revolution similar to the Georgians' noble stand for individual liberty and democracy?
Forbes' columnist Richard Levick raises important issues on Croatia in his piece which was posted on October 27, 2011:
The EU has promised an additional 4 billion euros to government institutions apparently mired in rampant corruption. So the vicious circle spirals on. The more we donate to sham reform, the more empowered the regime becomes even as European investors who’ve already sunk significant amounts into Croatian banks, telecoms, and real estate – and who knows how those deals were negotiated with local apparatchiks! – seek to protect their interests by lofting yet another albatross over EU skies.
It is possible that nascent political forces in Croatia will lead to change if reports of growing public support for such change are accurate. (We’re also assuming the country holds honest elections, as concerns remain about a purported infusion of 550,000 illegal votes, an alarming 17% that skewed past results.) But indisputably, those forces – so potentially beneficial to legitimate U.S. and European interests – face a daunting uphill battle absent helpful pressure from outside. Added to the impact on the EU and global financial markets, there is a laundry list of other vital considerations, not the least of which is Croatia’s geo-political positioning with respect to drug routes, weapon deals, and human trafficking.
Croatia's anticorruption and reform-oriented leaders have an opportunity to press ahead in mobilizing the disenfranchised masses and demand radical changes which have transformed countries like Georgia.