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Cablegate: Croatian Elections: Campaign Spending Figures And

VZCZCXRO7899
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #1094/01 3551335
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211335Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8438
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ZAGREB 001094

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR EUR/SCE, EUR/PPD AND EUR/RPM
OSD FOR WINTERNITZ, NSC FOR BRAUN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV HR
SUBJECT: CROATIAN ELECTIONS: CAMPAIGN SPENDING FIGURES AND
MESSY VOTER REGISTRIES


CAMPAIGN SPENDING: $70,000 PER SABOR SEAT
------------------------------------

1. Following the November 25 parliamentary elections in
Croatia, Transparency International Croatia (TIH) and GONG,
an election monitoring organization, have published their
report on campaign spending. During the official campaign
season 3 - 23 November, Croatian political parties spent more
than 50 million kuna ($10 million). The ruling Croatian
Democratic Union (HDZ) led campaign spending with over 25
million kuna, or more than all other parties combined. The
main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), was
a distant second, spending just over 8 million kuna. While
the SDP's campaign won fewer seats than the HDZ, it was much
more cost effective. The SDP spent approximately 145,000
kuna (or $29,000) per each of its 56 seats in the Sabor,
while the HDZ spent over 400,000 kuna (or $80,000) for each
of the 61 seats it won inside Croatia. Both parties did far
better however, than the right-wing Croatian Party of Rights
(HSP), which spent 3m kuna ($600,000) to win a single seat.
For the elections as a whole, the average seat in Parliament
cost around 350,000 kuna ($70,000).

2. There is no specific law in Croatia to regulate campaign
financing for parliamentary elections. The existing statute
only governs the overall financing of political parties,
independent lists and candidates. Enacted in December 2006,
the law defines political parties as nonprofit organizations
which are partially subsidized from the state budget. All
parties with at least one representative in the Sabor are
eligible for state funds, and the money is divided
proportionally among the parties. Parties are eligible for a
10 percent bonus for each representative of an
"under-represented gender" (i.e. - female). The State Audit
Office at the Ministry of Finance requires end-of-year
financial statements from the parties, who must publish the
same on their public websites.

3. The TIH/GONG figures are only estimates based on the most
visible portion of the campaign. The numbers, compiled by a
private firm, are based on a selective look at advertising
during the campaign: political party radio and TV ads,
advertisements on the most popular Croatian Internet portals,
in daily and monthly print media, and on commercial
billboards. GONG and TIH speculated that their findings
captured only about half of actual spending by the parties,
putting the final level of campaign spending at closer to 100
million kuna ($20m). Both major parties have provided their
own figures for campaign spending. HDZ says its total
campaign spending was 24 million kuna -- less than GONG/TIH's
partial figure, and well below GONG/TIH's total estimate of
approximately 50 million kuna. SDP's estimated figures are
more in line with GONG/TIH's numbers, at approximately 16
million kuna for the total campaign.

THE DEAD ARE REGISTERED, BUT THEY DON'T VOTE MUCH
-----------------------------------------

4. GONG also released a separate report on the status of
Croatian voter lists during the 2007 parliamentary elections.
GONG estimates as many as 20 percent of Croatians registered
to vote in District 11, the so-called "Diaspora", are in fact
deceased. Their estimates are based on a review of the dates
of birth of voters and their contact with Croatian
institutions over the last 15 years. While GONG believes
these "dead voters" had no influence on the results of the
parliamentary elections as they found no evidence of large
scale voting by the dead, the presence of these names on the
registers would increase the turnout requirements for any
future referenda. (NOTE: A referendum is unlikely for
Croatia's NATO accession, but would be required, barring a
change to Croatian's Constitution, for EU accession. END
NOTE.) The discrepancy in voter lists was not isolated to
lists in Bosnia-Hercegovina, but also extended to the U.S.
and other diaspora vote registries, in part because it is
harder for the State Election Commission to track foreign
deaths and update voter lists. Since the elections,
Croatia's State Election Commission has confirmed one
instance of a dead person voting in Bosnia-Hercegovina and is
pursuing the case with the Croatian State Prosecutor's Office.

5. COMMENT: Croatia has taken significant steps in
increasing the transparency of its electoral process and
improving the management of voter registration lists. As the
reports by GONG and TIH show, room for improvement still
exists, but the overall evaluation of the 2007 parliamentary
elections by groups like OSCE/ODIHR and GONG has been very

ZAGREB 00001094 002 OF 002


positive. It is notable that Croatia's system of providing
state funds to political parties based on their
representation in parliament means the rich will get richer.
SDP's gains in the 2007 elections will translate to better
funding of future campaigns. HSP's loss of seats will
increase the party's reliance on private funding. Shifts in
public support toward the establishment of two or three
primary political parties will only increase the imbalance in
funding between those parties and smaller parties focused on
specific regions or interests. This imbalance will only
increase the need for additional transparency in the coming
years. END SUMMARY.
BRADTKE

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