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Cablegate: Right Wing Wins Neighborhood Councils in Eastern City Of

VZCZCXRO5362
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #1480 3481154
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141154Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7046
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ZAGREB 001480

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV HR
SUBJECT: RIGHT WING WINS NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCILS IN EASTERN CITY OF
OSIJEK

REF: ZAGREB 1466 and previous

1. Summary and comment: The regional Croatian Democratic Congress
of Slavonia and Baranja (HDSSB, a party led by war-crimes suspect
and local strongman Branimir Glavas) and the right-wing Croatian
Party of Rights (HSP) won over half the seats in the Osijek city
neighborhood councils (the lowest level of self-government) in
December 10 elections. These two parties' success should be seen in
the context of Glavas's hunger strike in reaction to war crime
proceedings against him (see reftel). While Glavas's protest has
bolstered the Slovonian right wing, more general support for these
groups, especially HSP, tends to oscillate according to occasion. A
30 percent voter turnout cannot be assumed to reflect the sentiments
of a majority in Osijek, let alone the voters in the rest of the
country, and should not be viewed with undue alarm. End summary and
comment.

2. The city of Osijek on December 10 held elections for
neighborhood councils, the lowest levels of elected authority.
Because the powers of these bodies do not exceed decisions such as
whether there should be two or three benches in a park, turnouts are
typically low, and the December 10 turnout in Osijek was just under
30 percent. Five parties managed to cross the five-percent
threshold. The recently created party HDSSB -- a regional movement
gathered around former Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) renegade
Branimir Glavas -- won 33.2 percent. Its partner in the city and
county -- the far-right HSP -- won 21.6 percent. The nationally
ruling HDZ came third with 12.4, followed by the social democrats
(SDP) and its regional partner (9.7 percent). The only other party
clearing the threshold was the Croatian Pensioners Party (HSU), a
party with steady support ever since it entered parliament in 2003.
Everyone, including the winners, agrees that the victory of the two
right-wing groups is directly linked to the war crimes proceedings
against Branimir Glavas, his ensuing hunger strike and temporary
release. After he left the HDZ in the spring of 2005, Glavas built
his political platform on defending the eastern region of Slavonia
against the central(ized) power in Zagreb. This policy climaxed
when his detention became imminent and his supporters rallied behind
him under the slogan "Be spiteful, Slavonia!" The slogan must have
hit the right note for just over half of the thirty percent of
voters in Osijek who turned out on December 10.

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3. Despite the low turnout and insignificant authority of these
councils, HDSSB and the HSP will certainly try to exploit this
success on the road to what they hope will be a victory in 2007
national elections. Osijek-Baranja County Prefect Kresimir Bubalo
(HDSSB) has already projected the next Parliament based on these
results, arguing that no future government will be possible without
his party, an argument HSP leaders have made about themselves many
times before. A nation-wide poll from early December rated the HSP
at 16.3 percent, which is probably a historic high. Support for the
HSP over the past year has wavered between 6 percent (last spring)
and 16 now, and is usually closely linked to the prevailing
political circumstances at that moment. Glavas's influence in
Osijek and the surrounding county has always been great, and his
self-induced "martyrdom" has apparently won him sympathy from voters
outside his core base. His strong alliance with the HSP -- a party
that views and promotes itself as the best defender of national
interests -- has undoubtedly attracted support for their cause from
other parts of the country, as the poll shows. Nevertheless, 70
percent of the Osijek voters did not show up at the polls,
unmotivated by the Glavas cause. Many of those could well be the
"silent majority" that had for fourteen years voted for a liberal
mayor before the current Glavas-Djapic combination, and now simply
finds no one to represent their interests adequately.

BRADTKE

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