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Cablegate: Hdz Picks Kosor, "Dignified" Campaign Ahead

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

UNCLAS ZAGREB 001841

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR EUR/SCE - KABUMOTO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL HR
SUBJECT: HDZ PICKS KOSOR, "DIGNIFIED" CAMPAIGN AHEAD

REF: A. ZAGREB 01601
B. ZAGREB 01571

1. (SBU) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: The ruling Croatian Democratic
Union (HDZ) announced on 17 October its nomination of
Jadranka Kosor, Deputy PM and Minister of Family,
Generational Solidarity and Veterans' Affairs (bio follows)
as candidate for the presidential elections (ref A) currently
planned for Tuesday, December 21. This choice reflects the
party's desire to select a safe candidate -- i.e. one who can
lose gracefully to the overwhelmingly popular incumbent
President Stjepan Mesic and minimize the damage this loss
inflicts on the HDZ heading into local elections expected in
May 2005 (ref B).

2. (U) By law, the government must schedule elections on
non-working days, so discussion of a midweek vote has sparked
complaints from the business community about lost revenue
from another shutdown in late December. Speaker of
Parliament Vladimir Seks has said the government may avoid
the workday issue and call the election for Sunday, January
2, 2005. PM Sanader is now floating a proposal for a
constitutional amendment allowing presidential elections on
the same Sunday every five years, rather than the current
window between 30 and 60 days prior to the end of the
incumbent's mandate. The opposition Social Democratic Party
(SDP) has expressed opposition to reopening a constitutional
debate. END SUMMARY AND COMMENT.

LOW EXPECTATIONS, HIGH RHETORIC
-------------------------------

3. (SBU) While the HDZ has promised to do all it can to
ensure Kosor's victory, the party will likely avoid harsh
criticism of the president, given his reputation as Croatia's
most popular politician. The HDZ would prefer to maintain
its good relations with Mesic and just get the election over
with (December 21 is the earliest electoral date under the
Constitution, putting the greatest possible amount of time
between this and the May local elections); so Kosor's
campaign will likely remain in her words "dignified" and
"peaceful."

4. (U) Analysts believe Kosor can count on core HDZ voters
(about 30% in the last elections), but will lose centrist
voters to Mesic, who has the support of at least seven
opposition parties, and more extreme right wing voters to
Slaven Letica of the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP). Other
candidates include the far right Croatian Block's president
Ivic Pasalic, a close associate of former president Franjo
Tudjman, and Miroslav "Ciro" Blazevic, whose political
reputation rests largely on his coaching of the Croatian
national soccer team to a third place World Cup finish in
1998. This opposition may not be sufficient to push the
election to a second round (held two weeks after the first
round), as Mesic's current poll numbers are well over the
required 50 percent.

5. (U) Kosor has already made her first misstep of the
campaign: when she claimed she already had the support of a
Croatian network of 40 women's NGOs, NGO leaders publicly
denied the assertion, reporting they are still waiting to
hear Kosor's positions on key issues. She is the second
woman to run for president in Croatia's history.

BIOGRAPHY: WARTIME RADIO BROADCASTS BUILT PUBLIC FOLLOWING
--------------------------------------------- -------------

6. (U) Kosor was born on July 1, 1953, in the Slavonian town
of Pakrac. She began her professional career as a journalist
in 1972, working for the daily newspaper Vecernji List and
Radio Zagreb (now Croatian Radio). During the 1991-95 war,
she hosted radio shows for refugees and other displaced
persons, earning her name recognition and public popularity.
In 1995 she became one of the HDZ's vice presidents, was
elected to parliament, and became deputy speaker. In 2002,
she became deputy president of the HDZ, making her officially
the number two in the party. She was elected to a third term
in parliament in 2003 but gave up her seat to take her
current cabinet position. In recent years, she has focused
her political energies on issues related to motherhood and
war veterans. Kosor holds a law degree from the Law Faculty
in Zagreb. She has one son and lives in Zagreb. She speaks
some English and understands German.
DELAWIE


NNNN

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