opposition party chief</A>
The Washington Times
November 27, 2001
Croation opposition party chief would emulate GOP
By Jeffrey T. Kuhner
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The leader of Croatia's main opposition party says that he will adopt
President Bush's "compassionate conservative" agenda should he form the next
government of his former Yugoslav republic.
Ivo Sanader, the head of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), said in an
interview that "my goal as leader is to create a Croatian version of the
"I want to transform the HDZ into a modern conservative party that will
implement free-market policies necessary to stimulate economic growth and the
creation of wealth," he said.
Mr. Sanader also said he is a strong advocate of sweeping "income-tax
cuts, deregulation and cuts in public spending" to reverse Croatia's sliding
economy and 23 percent unemployment rate.
The HDZ leader, who calls himself an "admirer" of Mr. Bush and his
"compassionate conservative policies," is a proponent of a pro-growth,
"We are a party that accepts individual freedoms and choice and which
shares common values with like-minded conservative parties in Europe and the
United States. The HDZ is committed to democracy and a free-market
philosophy," Mr. Sanader said last week at a luncheon meeting at the Cato
He also believes that Croatia should continue the process of joining the
European Union and NATO.
Mr. Sanader, 48, took over the leadership of the HDZ in April 2000 after
the death of its founder, Franjo Tudjman, in December 1999. Mr. Tudjman
successfully led Croatia's bloody drive for independence from Yugoslavia in
However, Mr. Tudjman was criticized by Western governments during the
1990s for his regime's authoritarian tendencies, economic cronyism and
rampant corruption. This led to Croatia's growing international isolation and
the threat of economic sanctions.
Mr. Sanader concedes the HDZ "made mistakes while we were in power,
especially with regard to economic policies and corruption. This led us to
fundamentally reexamine our approach."
The election of a center-left coalition government in January 2000,
which ran on a platform of economic reform and closer pro-Western links,
reduced the once-dominant HDZ to a shadow of its former self. Yet the
left-leaning government's inability to overcome the nation's economic woes
has led to a resurgence in the popularity of the HDZ. The party won local
elections in May.
Mr. Sanader said the revamped HDZ is now considerably ahead of Prime
Minister Ivica Racan's Social Democratic Party in public opinion polls with
"approximately 30 to 33 percent voter support."
Josko Celan, a political analyst at the Split-based newspaper Slobodna
Dalmacija, said Mr. Sanader is committed to changing the HDZ into a
Western-style, conservative party. But Mr. Celan doubts whether Mr. Sanader
will be able to implement his tax-cutting, anti-statist agenda if he becomes
Croatia's next prime minister.
"He would like to get rid of the old image of the HDZ," Mr. Celan said
in a telephone interview. "But Croatia and the United States are two very
different societies. The tradition of a free-market economy in the United
States is much longer and deeper. I believe it is his intention to pass tax
cuts and other free-market measures. But I don't know how much he can
achieve. He will face a very tough economic situation."
Mr. Sanader said the election of Mr. Bush and Italy's Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi has had an impact on Croatia's electorate, making it more
receptive to the possibility of a conservative government capturing power in
"The public feeling toward the HDZ is changing after the Italian and
U.S. elections," Mr. Sanader said. "And they are now seeing conservative,
center-right parties in a new, positive light."
copyright © 2001 News World Communications, Inc.
Submitted by Tomislav Sunic
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