Published in Nacional number 344, 2002-06-19
Ivić Pašalić to form a new party
After a secret meeting on the eve of the HDZ Central Committee sitting, Ivo Sanader and his supporters made a plan to exclude Pašalić from all important party bodies
After being removed from his position as director of the Foundation for the National Plight, Ivić Pašalić, once the number two man in the country, has been forced to make a new, desperate move: fearing that he will soon be thrown out of HDZ, Pašalić has decided to form his own party. In Pašalić’s camp, they are already feverishly working out plans to create a new HDZ, however, this futile effort, full of weaknesses and uncertainties, was put together with so many problems that Pašalić has been forced to postpone the press conference already announced for Monday, June 17, throwing his supporters into a state of desperation. They are completely unable to deal with the fact that their political guru allowed Sanader to so quickly and easily politically liquidate him. Even worse: they are astounded at how Pašalić so powerlessly took every blow from Sanader, without the strength to seriously counter him. Especially since he announced a completely different outcome for the battle for power in HDZ.
At the constitutive sitting of the HDZ Central Board, held on Saturday June 15, it was seen just how quickly Pašalić’s faction is fading away. Not even his closest colleagues, such as Božidar Kalmeta, Ivan Šuker, Krešimir Ćosić, Krišto, and Tafra Zoričić stood up in his defense, while Ljerka Mintas Hodak did not even attend this sitting. They have all finally become convinced that Ivić Pašalić’s political era has come to an end, and they are now turning their backs.
The only politicians who bound themselves to Pašalić were those with skeletons in their closets and who needed the protection or the sick ambitions of the HDZers who offered them expedient careers. Now that they have realized that Pašalić is no longer able to even protect himself, let alone them, they have left him hanging, which is the best proof that the Pašalić’s political balloon has finally run out of air.
Even when Pašalić was defeated at the HDZ assembly, no one predicted such a tragic and black outcome: then they were working out the scenario for a crisis situation to contest the legitimacy, statutory and legal complications of every move made by Sanader. That was first to lead to complete paralysis of the party, then to the dissatisfaction and the general rebellion, and in the end to an emergency Assembly at which Pašalić would be elected the new HDZ president.
Instead of this, the worst possible outcome has taken place: at this most recent meeting, the doors were opened for Pašalić exit out of the party.
The last act of this drama for Pašalić’s exit out of HDZ took place on Friday night, some fifteen hours prior to the HDZ sitting. In Mala Mlaka, not far from Zagreb, in the restaurant Čardak, the members of the central committee, together with local butcher Stjepan Fiolić, put together the final conspiracy plans for the political liquidation of Pašalić. Calling the occasion a late birthday party, HDZ president Ivo Sanader secretly collected some fifteen members of the most important party bodies, and many other supporters from the HDZ leadership. The whole operation was conducted in such great secrecy that not even Pašalić’s best trained secret agents had any idea. Thus, they had the perfect chance to work out the strategy to remove Pašalić from the director’s position for the Foundation, and to dissolve his power in HDZ Youth.
According to the interpretation by Sanader’s supporters, this secret meeting had a clear goal: to demonstrate their decisiveness, unity and readiness to the twenty undecided members of the central committee in taking on Pašalić at any cost, even if that meant expelling him from HDZ. Pašalić’s faction claim the opposite: that this was an attempt to drive fear into the bone’s of Sanader’s opponents.
Expulsion of Brleković
Pašalić’s faction was unable to come to when at the very beginning of the meeting, according to an earlier concocted plan, Ivo Sanader expelled Ivan Brleković, member of the central committee and Pašalić’s election campaign responsible for legal issues, out of the party, without any hesitate or consideration. Followed by shouts and threats, the confused Brleković, who had tried to obstruct the beginning of the meeting with his legal and statutory catches, left the hall looking dejected. No one from the Pašalić camp dared to protect him. When they entered into the HDZ headquarters, the Pašalić supporters saw unfamiliar young men with buzzed haircuts and big muscles, and it was immediately clear to them that anyone intending to make a disturbance would be quickly and effectively pacified.
The meeting took place exactly as was determined at the meeting. Ivo Sanader made proposals, Pašalić’s crowd opposed them, but no one countered them in order to avoid wasting any time. When they were finished, Sanader proposed a vote and his voting machinery, which got stronger as the meeting went on, broke Pašalić’s faction. The Sanader supporters reacted only when Ivić Pašalić, Dario Vukić, Milan Kovač, Branimir Lukšić, Bosiljko Mišetić and Petar Šale began to accuse Sanader of attacking the life and works of Franjo Tudjman, that Ivić Pašalić was the top of HDZ, and a symbol of HDZ and that no one had the right to bring him down, and that Sanader was trying to break HDZ on the orders of President Stipe Mesić and Josip Manolić.
At that point Sanader responded that Pašalić was indeed at the top of HDZ, but of a parallel line of power in the party. Hebrang commented that it was high time to put an end to Pašalić’s autocracy. Pašalić’s response was that President Tudjman had fired him for exactly those reasons. One of the delegates, Burić confirmed that the real leaders of HDZ are its most distinguished members, Ivo Sanader, Andrija Hebrang, Vladimir Šeks and Branimir Glavaš, and in no way, Ivić Pašalić.
The remaining conclusions of the HDZ sitting were just as fatal for Pašalić and his supporters. The party leadership decided to dissolve the Youth HDZ, Pašalić’s pet organization. In addition, Nacional has learned that another five or six HDZ county organizations will also be dissolved if they do not begin respecting the new party leadership. That could first happen in the Šibenik-Knin county, after the ultimatum was giving to immediately return prefect Barak to his position.
Ivo Sanader has succeeded doing what Franjo Tudjman, Hrvoje Šarinić, Franjo Gregurić, Andrija Hebrang and Nikica Valentić could not. With this, Sanader has achieved absolute power in the party, now restricted only by the ambitions of Vladimir Šeks and Branimir Glavaš, the architects of his win over Pašalić.
Political Message to the government
The political breakdown of Ivić Pašalić will have far reaching consequences for the future of HDZ, as well as for the political situation in Croatia. If Ivo Sanader can continue with the consistent democratic and pro-European profiling of HDZ, then that party will soon become a possible coalition partner for center and center-right parties. With the departure of Ivić Pašalić, one of the greatest barriers for cooperation with HDZ has been moved aside. If HDZ can continue in this direction, then HSS and HSLS will no longer be forced into absolute cooperation with SDP. This blow against Pašalić is actually a serious blow to Ivica Račan, which could be the first announcement that his time in power is up.
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