'Emigration' vs. 'Homeland' Croatia

Drago Hedl

TUE, 18 JAN 2000

Zagreb, 9 January, 2000 - The fact that Croat diaspora gave 85 per cent of its votes to the Croat Democratic Community (HDZ) and in this way acted quite the contrary to majority of the voters in Croatia, is an interesting phenomenon which does not require a special analysis in order to be understood. The concept of diaspora according to the opinion of the defeated HDZ, came down to the Croats in Herzegovina who in fact, ever since Tudjman had come to power, considered themselves and the regions where they lived just temporarily "cut off" from the parent country until the international situation changed. Herzegovina and the Croats from Herzegovina have always been the most loyal electorate of HDZ, so that until recently the ruling party in Croatia tried by all possible means to squeeze into the election law solutions which gave the diaspora the largest possible number of votes. It was an established fact known to everybody that a large majority of the Croat diaspora were in fact the Croats from Herzegovina, which also proved to be true in the past elections. Out of about 120 thousand votes of the diaspora, approximately 110 thousand are votes from Bosnia & Herzegovina and thanks to their will HDZ got a surprising majority there. This brought HDZ the extremely important six seats in the assembly, but also the unchanged status of individually the most powerful party in the assembly.

Although the one and the other are cold comfort for the HDZ because it indeed lost the elections and power, the paradox of the results of voting in which HDZ in Croatia lost in nine out of ten electoral districts, while in diaspora it won no less than 85 per cent of the votes, clearly reveals the interdependence between the diaspora and HDZ which has turned into a long lasting political and economic symbiosis based on common interest.

The banner that immediately after the election winners - the coalition of the Social Democratic Party and the Croatian Social Liberal Party - became known appeared at Vinjani Donji border crossing between Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina is perhaps the best commentary of the disposition of the "diaspora" after HDZ had lost power. In the past few days passengers from Croatia were given a red carnation and at the very entrance across the road a banner was spread on which, along with two red five-point stars it was written: "Comrades, welcome to the Croat Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia". The unusual welcome of the passengers coming from the parent country by the "diaspora" speaks of the tragic stand of the Croats there who believe that by departure of HDZ they would be handed over to the mercy of Sarajevo. This is because they were supported in this stand for years, since not only their television antennas, but even their everyday life sensors were turned instead in the direction of Sarajevo in that of Zagreb.

One of the toughest nut to crack in negotiations about the election law between the then opposition and HDZ referred to voting of the diaspora. Only strong pressure from abroad and the possibility of further straining of internal political situation in Croatia forced HDZ to give up on the so-called "fixed" quota according to which the diaspora - as was the case in previous elections - had 12 seats in Croatian parliament warranted in advance. HDZ knew that in this way it ensured almost 10 per cent of the seats in the assembly, so it hoped that with other mechanisms and levers of power (Croatian Television above all) it would after all preserve power. The struggle between the former opposition and HDZ over fixed and unfixed quotas might have seemed as splitting hairs to those who did not understand the essence of the reason for it. Then the opposition insisted and fortunately succeeded in amending the election law so that instead of the former system of electing representatives of the "diaspora", this electoral district got as many seats as needed on the average in Croatia for a single representative in the parliament.

In previous elections, for a single representative in the assembly it was necessary to win twice as many votes of Croatian citizens with the place of residence in the country than for those elected in the "diaspora". Only in these elections when the unfixed quota was agreed, this disproportion was somewhat corrected: depending on the number of voters who went to the polling stations in Croatia, the number of voters who actually voted was divided by the number of seats in the assembly and the obtained figure was applied to the special list for the "diaspora". It so happened that instead of 12 representatives, the "diaspora" or more precisely the Croats in Bosnia & Herzegovina will have six deputies in Croatian state assembly. Among other, Croat "Diaspora" will be represented by the still active minister in the departing government of Zlatko Matesa, Milan Kovac, and a general in Croatian army - Ljubo Cesic Rojs. Among them is also Ante Beljo, newcomer to HDZ from Canada at the time of the first multiparty elections in Croatia in spring 1990 and nowadays one of the well paid civil servant at a high post who is in charge of "diaspora". Even this fact clearly illustrates how false this concern of HDZís for the "diaspora" is because majority of "representatives of the emigration" who have influence on political developments in Croatia in fact live in Zagreb.

The reason why the by now already opposition HDZ won an enormous number of votes in Herzegovina which is drastically contrary to the majority disposition of Croatian voters lies in two important facts: the first is fear that the inflow of money from Zagreb to Herzegovina would run dry, and it fed funds used for financing the army, the police and the administration of the actually never dissolved Herzeg-Bosnia. Some of the leaders of parties that won the elections as part of their election platform openly demanded profound investigation of all monetary items allocated for Mostar and Siroki brijeg and promised full transparency of possible spilling over of the money from the budget into the neighbouring state. The second reason is the fear that the Herzegovina lobby in Croatia will lose its so far predominant influence on the top Croatian authorities so that many business deals wrapped up in cooperation with the tycoons from Herzegovina in Croatia or officials in the ministry of defence by "businessmen" from Herzegovina would be lost.

The international community which is gloating because HDZ is not in power any more in Croatia, recognises its own triumph in the victory of the former opposition. The head of the United Nations mission in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Jacques Paul Klein declared to Sarajevo Oslobodjenje that the just completed elections in Croatia were "a clear message to the Croats and the Serbs that it is the end of the dream on secession". "There is the state of B&H, it is a member of the UN and it will join the European family of states", with unconcealed pleasure said Klein. Both Racan and Budisa, the winning two in the past elections, on several occasions expressed their commitment to full recognition of sovereignty of Bosnia & Herzegovina. It is true that verbally HDZ also expressed it, but in practice it kept its fingers crossed in its pocket never giving up on the policy of Herzeg-Bosnia.

The Herzegovina lobby which has for years controlled the Croatian political scene and which has with its family and interest connections woven a strong network of what Tudjman euphorically called "interconnections between the emigration and the homeland Croatia" seems to have come to its end. The death of Gojko Susak, late minister of defence, shook up this lobby, but it soon coped with the situation and thanks to the well distributed key personnel, especially in the Croatian ministry of defence, it has survived to this day. Nowadays, however, after the elections, things seem to be quite different.

Voting of "Croat emigration", which in more than 90 per cent come down to the Croats in Bosnia & Herzegovina and which - when political affiliations are concerned - revealed the tragic division between Tudjmanís "emigration and homeland Croatia", should be understood as a swan song of the forces in Zagreb which manipulated "emigration" for the sake of implementing a policy which is irrevocably receding into the dark part of history.

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