As things now stand, the new Croatian government is clearly demonstrating the intention of following most negative European political trends. These trends can be observed, for example, in Poland, Hungary and the Ukraine. Three months ago, a coalition of right wing parties came into power.
The previous Social Democratic coalition was replaced by HDZ and a coalition that included a whole series of small right-wing and extreme right-wing parties. The Social Democratic Party has led the country over the past four years, alongside several liberal parties.
For the purposes of this article, it should be recalled that the so-called right wing revolution in Croatia began four or five years ago. The HDZ’s new era began at the same time as the legal proceedings against previous HDZ leader Ivo Sanader (who was indicted for corruption), and when the HDZ’s political rating was at its lowest ever level in the party’s history. At that time, the new party leadership and new president Tomislav Karamarko were trying to prepare the party for new challenges and build its strength for the next elections.
The new political paradigm is a synthesis of two political traditions: cultural neo-conservativism and the conservative economic policies of the “Third Way” (which is neither socialism nor neoliberalism). First, HDZ has decided to start so-called cultural conflicts with a view to reshaping and transforming the nation’s political and cultural life. In this regard, they are using various methods: an ardent anti-Communist rhetoric; an insistence on tradition and family values in the public sphere, which are very often rooted in rigid Catholic intolerance, as well as the revitalization of so-called right wing “grass-roots” initiatives (an example being the success of the anti-LGBT referendum in 2013). Secondly, HDZ planned to implement certain ideas taken from the German concept of the social market economy. This paradigm combines private enterprise, free market capitalism and a minimal but strong government.
The state’s role is triplicate in these circumstances: to secure business, to control social conflicts and to introduce a new morality.
Now, with HDZ in power, we are faced with many worrying trends. Among them, we can highlight several, the latest being the clericalization of higher education (for example, the attempt to merge the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb with the Catholic Faculty of Theology). Another example to be mentioned is an attack on independent journalism (examples include the suspension of the Fund for non-profit media outlets, politically motivated personnel changes in national television and the resignation of the chairman of the Council for Electronic Media, the country’s main media regulatory agency, with the consequence that the Government asked that the entire Council be dissolved).
The major problem is the open and explicit glorification of the Croatian Quisling regime that held power during WWII. The highest ranking officials in the new state are promoting ideas that became groundless 70 years ago (for example, the Vice President of Parliament marching beside hundreds of supporters of the Ustasha regime, the Minister of Culture openly advocating revisionist views, the Deputy Prime Minister threatening journalists and cultural workers who opposed his views, etc.).
And that’s not all! There are some particularities in our domestic political life which are worth mentioning. Among them, the fact that officials are constantly threatening anybody who dares mention anything to do with Yugoslavia or communism in the public sphere with the lustration process.
Also, officials have threatened to launch a new reform of the curriculum, expelling all inappropriate topics from its contents. Meanwhile, in the background to all of this, without ‘the sound and fury’, ‘business as usual’ is continuing relatively uninterrupted. The new government is therefore planning to privatize health insurance, as well as other public goods such as state roads, the energy sector, railways, tourist facilities, oil companies etc.