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Cablegate: End of an Era: Death of Opposition Leader and Former Prime

VZCZCXRO4072
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #0431 1230639
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030639Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7628
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000431

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV HR POLITICAL PARTIES
SUBJECT: END OF AN ERA: DEATH OF OPPOSITION LEADER AND FORMER PRIME
MINISTER IVICA RACAN

1. (U) Ivica Racan - the first and so far only President of the
Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP) -- died April 29 of cancer
at the age of 63. Three weeks earlier, Racan resigned as SDP
president, after his health took a turn for the worse. While his
funeral will be a private event, hundreds of officials and members
of the public attended a May 2 memorial service in Zagreb.
President Mesic, PM Sanader and most other high-ranking state
officials participated, as did foreign statesmen such as Gerhardt
Schroeder of Germany and Milan Kucan of Slovenia. Ambassador
Bradtke represented the Embassy at the service.

2. (U) Racan played a central role in Croatia's recent history. He
led the Croatian communists away from the Yugoslav League dominated
by Slobodan Milosevic in 1990. A few months later, he authorized
Croatia's first multi-party elections and ensured a peaceful
transfer of power to the winning Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) led
by Franjo Tudjman. While in opposition, Racan led the party through
reform toward a modern party of social democrats. In 2000, he
returned to power as Prime Minister, leading a left-of-center
six-party coalition. During that period, Croatia was embraced again
as a full member of the international community, a worthy candidate
for membership in the EU and NATO.

3. (SBU) Although often criticized for a lack of decisiveness, Racan
in fact promoted and practiced the art of governing by compromise,
as the only possible way to keep a coalition government together.
At the same time, he continued for 17 years to be the indisputable
authority in his own party. This becomes even more evident now that
the SDP must elect a new leader, who will face a major challenge
just a few months later, as parliamentary elections are expected in
November. So far two candidacies have been officially announced:
former foreign minister Tonino Picula, and former assistant foreign
minister Zoran Milanovic. SDP Vice-President Zeljka Antunovic is
expected to run, but she has yet to state her intentions.

BRADTKE

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