Archive for January, 2010
The Opposition Social Democrat candidate Ivo Josipovic has been elected as the next President of Croatia with more than 60 per cent of the total vote. He beat the Mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandic who was supported by the more right-wing elements of society. Two very different personal styles fought this election: on the one hand, Josipovic, the academic, softly-spoken progressive candidate, on the other, the politically experienced and populist Bandic. President Josipovic is a professor of law and composer of classical music. He is now in charge of composing the symphony that will lead his county to EU accession.
Josipovic’s victory is a timely one for the country. Croatia has recently been plagued by a series of corruption incidents. One of the main themes of his discourse was the pledge to lead a decisive role in the fight against corruption. Following the incidents of mismanagement of EU funds exposed in Bulgaria and Romania, the fight against corruption is decisive for Croatia’s accession to the EU. The President will thus have to restore faith in politics and also work with the government to tackle financial problems that are weighing on the economy.
Thus, at the time when Croatian EU accession is under negotiation, Croatians have elected the candidate who seems most likely to boost the country’s image as a progressive regional player in the Balkans rather than a state that is plunged in nationalistic politics.
Josipovic’s victory has a positive normative impact for the Balkans too. It signals both within and beyond Croatia that corruption is a recognised problem that must be tackled. Furthermore, although corruption is endemic in Balkan societies, the choice of Josipovic suggests that Croatian citizens are now determined to stamp it out. His election also demonstrates that polite, low- profile academic candidates can succeed in a region where hardline nationalistic macho-style politics has traditionally been the norm.
Last but not least, Josipovic’s election adds another string to the bow of recent Social Democrat victories, following those in Portugal, Greece and Norway. It would appear that social democracy is putting together quite a talented orchestra on the periphery of Europe.