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Cablegate: Liberal Party Elects a New President

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000252

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM PINR HR
SUBJECT: LIBERAL PARTY ELECTS A NEW PRESIDENT

1. SUMMARY: YALE POROFESSOR IVO BANAC WAS ELECTED AS THE
NEW PRESIDENT OF THE LIBERAL PARTY (LS) A JUNIOR MEMBER OF
THE GOC COALITION, DEFEATING ZLATKO KRAMARIC BY A SLIM
MARGIN. ALTHOUGH FREQUENTLY A CRITIC OF THE CURRENT
GOVERNMENT, BANAC SAID THE LIBERAL PARTY WOULD CONTINUE TO
PARTICIPATE IN THE RULING COALITION. HIS AMBITION TO
IMPROVE THE LS'S STANDING INSIDE THE COALITION, HOWEVER, MAY
BE THWARTED BY HIS DECISION TO PURSUE PARALLEL CAREERS ON
BOTH SIDES OF THE ATLANTIC. END SUMMARY.

UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 ZAGREB 00252 040821Z
2. YALE PROFESSOR IVO BANAC WAS ELECTED THE THIRD PRESIDENT
OF THE LIBERAL PARTY (LS) AT A JANUARY 25 PARTY CONVENTION.
IN A SECOND ROUND, BANAC NARROWLY DEFEATED HIS OPPONENT,
INCUMBENT ZLATKO KRAMARIC, BY A MARGIN OF SIX VOTES.

3. IN THE WAKE OF THE JANUARY 2000 PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS,
THE LS ENTERED THE RULING COALITION AS A JUNIOR PARTNER
HOLDING ONLY TWO SEATS IN PARLIAMENT. THE NUMBER INCREASED
WHEN TWO ETHNIC MINORITY REPRESENTATIVES JOINED THE PARTY
CAUCUS. OVERALL, HOWEVER, DURING KRAMARIC'S TWO-YEAR TERM
AS PRESIDENT, THE PARTY APPEARED TO HAVE LOST THE MODEST
SUPPORT IT HAD UNDER ITS LATE FOUNDER AND FIRST PRESIDENT
VLADO GOTOVAC.

4. ALTHOUGH A FREQUENT COMMENTATOR ON POLITICAL TRENDS IN
CROATIA, BANAC IS RELATIVELY NEW IN HIS ROLE AS POLITICIAN.
MUCH LIKE GOTOVAC, BANAC HAS BEEN VIEWED AS A MORAL VOICE
RATHER THAN A LEADER. HIS FREQUENT SHARP CRITICISM OF THE
PAST HDZ GOVERNMENT -- AND TO A LESSER EXTENT THE CURRENT
RACAN GOVERNMENT -- HAS SOMETIMES EARNED HIM A REPUTATION AS
A "RADICAL." IMMEDIATELY BEFORE AND DURING THE LEADERSHIP
STRUGGLE, KRAMARIC WAS ONLY THE LATEST TO HINT AT BANAC'S
RADICALISM. AFTER HIS DEFEAT AT THE PARTY CONVENTION,
KRAMARIC TOLD THE PARTY RANK AND FILE THAT "RADICALISM IN
THE PARTY WILL NOT PASS." OVERALL, THE LEADERSHIP,
INCLUDING THE LS VICE PRESIDENTS, IS MODERATE.

5. AT THE CONVENTION, BANAC PROMISED TO REBUILD THE PARTY
THROUGH HARD WORK ON THE GROUND WITH ACTIVE PARTICIPATION OF
EVERY LOCAL CHAPTER. HE PROPOSED THE LS AS THE "THIRD
OPTION" AGAINST A BIPOLAR POLITICAL SPECTRUM WHERE THE HDZ
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 ZAGREB 00252 040821Z
AND THE SDP DOMINATE. HOWEVER, BANAC STRESSED THAT HIS
PARTY WOULD STAY IN THE SDP-LED GOVERNMENT COALITION AS LONG
AS THE GOVERNMENT IS DETERMINED TO CONTINUE THE REFORMS.

6. COMMENT: BANAC RIGHTLY COUNTED ON HIS STATUS AS A
POLITICAL NEWCOMER TO GET ELECTED TO THE HELM OF A PARTY
EXPERIENCING A DECLINE IN SUPPORT. THIS STATUS COULD ALSO
BE HELPFUL FOR THE PARTY IN A NATION INCREASINGLY
DISAPPOINTED WITH THE CURRENT GOVERNMENT, AND STILL
SUSPICIOUS OF THE PEOPLE FROM THE OLD HDZ GOVERNMENT.
HOWEVER, BANAC'S VOCAL AND AMBITIOUS PROMISES TO REBUILD THE
LIBERAL PARTY AND STRENGTHEN LIBERAL DEMOCRACY IN CROATIA
WERE SOMEWHAT DILUTED WITH HIS SUDDEN DEPARTURE BACK TO THE
U.S. WHERE HIS PREOFESSORIAL DUTIES REQUIRE HIS PRESENCE FOR
A FEW MORE MONTHS -- MONTHS THAT MIGHT BE CRITICAL FOR THE
FRAGILE COALITION GOVERNING A COUNTRY APPROACHING ELECTIONS.
HIS CAMPAIGNING ACTIVISM THAT WON HIM THE PARTY PRESIDENCY
MAY NOT SERVE HIM WELL IN THE PRACTICALITIES OF POLITICAL
LEADERSHIP.

ROSSIN

UNCLASSIFIED

>

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