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Cablegate: Croatia's Right-Wing - Still Conservative, but Less

VZCZCXRO5065
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #1061 3400826
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 060826Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8398
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ZAGREB 001061

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR EUR/SCE, EUR/PPD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV HR POLITICAL PARTIES
SUBJECT: CROATIA'S RIGHT-WING - STILL CONSERVATIVE, BUT LESS
OBSESSED WITH NATIONALISM

REF: ZAGREB 1052

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a stunning blow to right-wing politics across
Croatia, the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) lost 7 parliamentary
seats in the November 25 parliamentary elections. Despite attempts
to repackage itself as a mainstream alternative to the dominant
Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the HSP has been reduced to a mere
symbolic presence in the Croatian Parliament. Only its president
Anto Djapic was reelected. Following HSP's election debacle, Djapic
offered his resignation, but the HSP leadership decided to wait for
a party convention in February to decide on the matter. ThE HSP's
own internal disarray played a major role in its election losses,
but it also appears that Croatia's right-wing voters are
increasingly concerned with basic conservative issues, rather than
nationalistic rhetoric. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Formerly an extreme right-wing party, the HSP has in recent
years sought to transform into a more modern, yet still
conservative, alternative to the dominant HDZ. These efforts
contributed to the party's success in 2003 when it doubled to eight
the number of seats it held in Parliament, and then again in 2005
when it came to power in several cities and counties across Croatia.
In November 2007, however, the party made the 5 percent electoral
threshold in just one of the eleven election districts where it ran
for parliamentary seats. The very process of moving toward
mainstream politics had led the party so close to PM Ivo Sanader's
HDZ that the average right-wing voter could see little difference
between the HDZ and a reformed HSP.

3. (SBU) The HSP's collapse was also precipitated by internal
disputes. Its two most prominent parliamentarians, Miroslav Rozic
and Tonci Tadic, left the party in September, accusing Djapic of
being more interested in acquiring political offices than in
advancing its policies. HSP's disarray was further aggravated when
the city government of Osijek, the largest HSP-led city in Croatia,
fell apart over coalition squabbling and accusations of corruption
in public procurement.

4. (SBU) Coupled with the emergence of the center-left Social
Democratic Party (SDP) as a legitimate contender to win the
election, it appears Croatia's conservative voters decided the HDZ
was a more influential and more reliable party. The HSP tried to
attack the HDZ with nationalist rhetoric accusing Sanader of
"selling-out" for assisting in the capture of ICTY indictee (and HSP
hero) Ante Gotovina. But in response right-wing voters simply
abstained, or opted for the HDZ's conservative message (no new
taxes, a tough line on drugs, support for the Church and Catholic
social values) and argument that "a vote for the HSP is a vote for
the SDP."

5. (SBU) COMMENT: It appears nationalist rhetoric in general has
declining appeal to Croatian voters. In Eastern Slavonia, the rival
nationalist party of Branimir Glavas (reftel) benefited somewhat
from HSP's losses, and a independent candidacy by Tadic weakened the
HDZ in Dalmatia. But in other districts around the country, the
HSP's decline produced no bounce at all for other parties
emphasizing nationalist issues such as denouncing the HDZ for
submissiveness to the international community or calling for a halt
to Croatia's cooperation with the ICTY. END COMMENT.
BRADTKE

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