Published in Nacional number 775, 2010-09-21
DRAMATIC EVENTS IN THE RULING PARTY
Seks and Milinovic set to fight for control of post-Kosor HDZ
CROATIA'S THE MOST AGILE politician, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Vladimir Seks, no longer supports Jadranka Kosor, wants to oust her and install Bozidar Kalmeta at the helm of the party
DIVISION AT THE TOP Last week's leak of information from top party officials, directed against the Prime Minister, indicates that her closest associates have turned their backs on her, including, it is seems, Vladimir Seks himselfLast week's events surrounding former Deputy Prime Minister Damir Polancec have, in a number of aspects, brought to the forefront some major problems within the ruling party - the fact that the HDZ is by no means any longer a monolithic party, that some influential party officials have begun to distance themselves from the current prime minister and party president Jadranka Kosor, and that the HDZ is very much giving thought to its own future, i.e. who will succeed Jadranka Kosor at the helm of the party.
MOST INDICATIVE of the situation in the HDZ was the intrigue surrounding the secret meeting between Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor and Damir Polancec, which demonstrated that some of the most influential members of the HDZ leadership no longer support their current party leader, and that they may have already begun to work against her. Witness to this is the fact that the information on the meeting between Jadranka Kosor and Damir Polancec leaked to the media from the HDZ itself. Whoever leaked the information to the press knew very well that it would be a heavy blow to the Prime Minister - it was to be expected that her closest aids and spokesperson would initially deny there ever having been a meeting. And this has made the meeting ostensibly the Prime Minister's great crime, and at the same time her closest associates have come off as - liars. When the prime minister put and end to the attacks by confirming that she had indeed met with Polancec, someone in the HDZ spun the news for the media saying that it had been an independent move on her part and a mistake, which once again was a blow to her from her own ranks.
WHEN EVEN THIS WAS NOT ENOUGH, some other information leaked to the press from the HDZ that is equally damaging for the party president - it was reported that Jadranka Kosor had ordered all of the members of the party leadership to not provide information for the press, that she was introducing software control of mobile phones and official e-mail correspondence by members of the party leadership to establish the identity of the mole, that she gave all those on hand for a meeting of the presidency a tongue lashing, and that she is considering sacking Minister Ivan Suker. All of these tendentious allegations, which by all accounts are based on nothing, came from HDZ headquarters and are direct attacks against Jadranka Kosor, whom some of her associates have thereby tried to depict as a person losing her grip on power and trying with neurotic and bad moves to maintain her position as the chief authority figure in the party.
THAT THERE HAS IN FACT been a stratification within the HDZ leadership, that is to say that Jadranka Kosor no longer enjoys the support of all members of the leadership, became evident to many from the fact that the prime minister has been very much on her own the entire week - none of the more prominent members of the party stood in her defence, which is perhaps the best indicator of the real state of affairs within the ruling party. Since assuming the job of prime minister, Jadranka Kosor initially had, perhaps a not entirely sincere, but at least a nominal and visible support from her colleagues - when someone attacked her in the press and in public, besides her own reaction, older party "wolves" like Vladimir Seks, Andrija Hebrang or Darko Milinovic, would often stand in her defence, and they have all been very significantly silent all of last week. It was only at the end of the week that Seks finally made some very token statements, which rumour has it was an attempt to deflect serious allegations that it was Seks in fact who is responsible for the uncontrolled leaking of information on the meeting between Jadranka Kosor and Damir Polancec to the press.
ALL OF THESE DETAILS hint at the possibility that some key HDZ members have decided that they no longer intend to stand in their president's defence in the coming period, which could easily turn into the beginning of her political downfall. What is more, according to some sources two dominant groups are forming within the party leadership in the greatest secrecy from which the successor to Jadranka Kosor should emerge, i.e. the next HDZ president. The first group is, of course, led by the HDZ's chief strategist, Vladimir Seks, who has a strong position in the party. According to some sources, Seks decided to withhold his further support of Jadranka Kosor when she began second guessing his counsel and directives, that is to say to also consult other members of the party leadership, which he did not take kindly too. And so it is felt that Jadranka Kosor had in fact lost an ally in Seks when she recently rejected his proposal to call elections for Parliament in the spring of 2011. Seks' idea was that it would be the best time because the negotiations with the European Union would have just wound up, and that this early date would in some way catch the opposition off guard. Besides by Jadranka Kosor, the idea was also opposed by Andrija Hebrang and Branko Bacic, and Seks' idea was turned down. And while he has been a top policymaker for years, Vladimir Seks has never demonstrated an inclination to take the nominal helm of the party or country, which is why many believe he will be the chief strategist in installing a person he feels could stand at the helm of the party and be under his direct control.
IN THAT CONTEXT it has been frequently rumoured in the domestic halls of power that Seks would sooner or later install Bozidar Kalmeta as president of the HDZ. But these past months Kalmeta has been almost entirely withdrawn, which some feel portends quiet preparations for a new political paradigm and a possible rise to the top post in the party, while others feel that this is Kalmeta's sign that he has in a way abandoned any greater political engagement at the national level and that he is in fact waiting to leave Government itself. Some of Kalmeta's close aids have even told Nacional that he has simply grown tired of high-level politics, and that what he actually wants to return to Zadar and take up the post of head of some state-owned company. Whatever the case, and while it is still to early to draw conclusions, perhaps Vladimir Seks is, as one of the most capable political "foxes", preparing a surprise figure for his party and the Croatian public at large. In support of this proposition is the frequent counter-argument his friends and those who have a better understanding of him usually give in response to any doubt in the possibility that Seks can produce an entirely new face for the top spot in the HDZ - "Would you have believed them if someone had told you last spring that Jadranka Kosor would become the prime minister?" the other strong faction within the HDZ is led by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health Darko Milinovic.
AND WHILE IT REMAINS UNKNOWN which of the strong figures in the party's leadership Milinovic has on his side, it is very clear to many that he has great ambitions, that he is on seemingly good relations with everyone and that he is patiently waiting for the opportunity to achieve his almost undisguised dream - to become president of the HDZ. And however much his public appearances and primitive image seem to lessen his chances, Milinovic has for some time now in secrecy worked to improve his standing among the party rank and file across Croatia, and does not flinch from some somewhat strange actions to achieve this end. According to some sources, this summer, while former Deputy Prime Minister Damir Polancec was in police custody at Remetinec prison, Milinovic phoned Polancec's mother to ask, "how Damir was doing," with which he allegedly let it be known that the HDZ under his leadership would not have allowed Polancec to be detained in prison. Another interesting piece of information, in this regard, that has surfaced on the local political scene at the beginning of the week has it that there is even a group of key HDZ members who feel that Chief State Attorney Mladen Bajic has slipped out of the control of the HDZ and that he should be sacked as soon as possible and be replaced by someone that would be more cooperative with the ruling party. Even those who doubt that Milinovic could become the president of the HDZ because of his not particularly good rating among the general public, forget that the public at large is not the one that decides who the president of the party will be, but rather the HDZ membership, many of whom share Milinovic's opinions and point of view, which gives him a serious possibility of one day actually achieving his long-time dream of taking on the post of party president.
EVEN THOUGH SHE IS AWARE of the fact that she has ever more prominent dissenters in the leadership of her party, who feel that they no longer need her, it appears that Jadranka Kosor has very little room to strengthen her position in the HDZ. That is to say, she has exactly as much room as how much she can achieve in bolstering the HDZ's rating among the Croatian populace - and that can only be achieved through vigorous changes and reforms for which, by all accounts, the current prime minister lacks the clout and real power for. Within Government and the HDZ leadership the prime minister is very close only with Minister Petar Cobankovic and the party's general secretary Branko Bacic, while all of the other ministers and members of the HDZ presidency will give a great deal of consideration in the coming period behind whom they will throw their weight - her, Vladimir Seks or Darko Milinovic. As it now appears Jadranka Kosor would need a real miracle to win any significant support from her colleagues in the party.
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