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Cablegate: Popular Zagreb Mayor Enters Presidential Race

VZCZCXYZ0006
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHVB #0655 3091529
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051529Z NOV 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9634
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000655

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV HR
SUBJECT: POPULAR ZAGREB MAYOR ENTERS PRESIDENTIAL RACE

REF: A. ZAGREB 600
B. ZAGREB 645
C. ZAGREB 432
D. ZAGREB 583
E. ZAGREB 647

1. (U) At 7:00AM on the mountain that overlooks Zagreb, the
capital city's popular mayor, Milan Bandic, announced that he
would run as an independent candidate in the upcoming
presidential race (ref A). For months Bandic has been in
unofficial campaign mode, criss-crossing the country and
raising his national profile. But until now he had
steadfastly refused to confirm or deny that he intended to
enter the race (ref B). Because his party, the main
opposition Social Democratic Party, has previously backed
legal academic Ivo Josipovic to be the SDP's candidate for
president (ref C), local media are widely expecting SDP chief
Zoran Milanovic to quickly kick Bandic out of the party.
Nevertheless, Bandic indicated that he would always be a
Social Democrat at heart, but stressed several times during
his announcement speech that now he "was completely free" of
the confines of any party. Looking to build broader
political appeal, Bandic also praised HDZ Prime Minister
Jadranka Kosor and supported her recently-signed border
Arbitration Agreement with Slovenia (ref E), while
criticizing the SDP for hesitating to back the deal. The
implications of his candidacy on the overall presidential
race will be reported in a septel.
FOLEY

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