The green-left coalition, gained 7 percent at the Croatian parliamentary elections. Read the interview with Dr. Katarina Peović, member of Radnička fronta (RF, Workers’ Front) and recently elected MP for Možemo!
transform! europe: The elections of 5 July were a historic moment for the Croatian left, since it is the first time the left has achieved parliamentary representation. For a formation like Možemo!–politička platforma, mostly built by activists and participants of social movements, why is parliamentary representation essential?
Katarina Peović: Croatia’s Prime Minister, to insult us, once stated that members of the green-left coalition are ‘political activists’, implying that the term has a negative connotation. However, we are political activists. As a member of the Workers’ Front – one among six parties united in the Green-Left Coalition – I can say that parliamentary representation has never been our major political goal. Workers’ Front is constantly present on the streets, protesting and supporting strikes. To be a political activist means to reject the political opportunism frequently seen in all ‘high politics’.
However, we are now in parliament, which positions us more strongly to defend the working majority – those who live from their work – including the unemployed and retirees.
The election results have considerably strengthened and stabilised the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ, conservatives) and its leader, Andrej Plenković. In parallel, the Social Democrats (SDP) who run under the label Restart Coalition suffered a defeat, losing four seats. Along with Možemo!, six more parties entered the Croatian Parliament. How would you describe the balance of power and its parliamentary reflection?
The results obscure the fact that the HDZ did not gain all that many votes (it is their second worst result in the history of parliamentary elections). Low turnout (46.9%) resulted in a high number of seats for the HDZ. On the other hand, the SDP’s result doubtless signifies the defeat of their compromised neoliberal politics. A low turnout indicates that many have lost confidence in politics altogether. This disenchantment can either lead to withdrawal from politics (voters refusing to participate in the political process) or in the emergence of new political forces if they have enough strength to motivate people to participate in collectively changing the course of politics.
What issues does Možemo! identify as the most crucial social, economic, and political problems in Croatia at the moment, and in what way does Možemo! organise its struggle around them?
We stress the poor material living conditions of the majority of people. Croatia has been one of the countries in the EU with the lowest hourly wages. Although wages in all Eastern European countries have decreased in recent years, Croatia experienced the most dramatic drop – from 43% to 37% of the average Western European wages.
Workers’ Front has also been warning that Croatia heads the list of EU countries with precarious employment – 6.5 % of all employees in 2018 (6.9 % in 2017), whereas the European average was 2.1%. Of newly employed workers in 2019 90% signed contracts only for a limited period of time.
In addition, many pensions are meagre, and 14% of the working population, in particular younger people, have emigrated (that is, more than 300,000 people), as against the EU average of 4%.
What were the main political axes of your electoral campaign and programme and how was this result – beyond your expectations – achieved?
We focused on solidarity and the need to stop ruling elites from yet again transferring the burden of the crisis onto the shoulders of the disfranchised majority. Our programme was focused on the importance of green reindustrialisation – a kind of production that can provide high added value and, at the same time, meet basic needs – health care for all, education for all, food, medical supplies, but also housing for all (during the corona crisis the country’s most important city, Zagreb, was even struck by an earthquake).
In the corona crisis, we experienced how devastating the lack of medical supplies and of domestic food production can be. In Zagreb many people lost their homes.
Most of the left in Europe was very impressed and delighted by what you have achieved. Do you have relations with comrades, parties, and organisations throughout Europe, and how important is internationalism within Možemo!?
Workers’ Front strongly stresses the importance of internationalism. We cooperate closely with the Slovenian Left party Levica, a cooperation that existed long before the elections. During the campaign Levica’s coordinator Luka Mesec and I had a roundtable discussion on the situation of the left in the Balkans. We also cooperate with the Serbian Social Democratic Union (SDU). Italy’s Rifondazione Comunista supported us during the presidential and parliamentary elections. In addition, the Party of the European Left expressed its support.
The crisis of European integration seems far from being resolved. For years the European left has been stalled in an ambivalent position towards European integration. What is the vision of Možemo! for the future of Europe and the European people?
The European Union could be coming to an end if the corona crisis deepens the inequality between rich countries of the European centre and poor periphery. Brussels bureaucrats openly accepted inequality in the concept of a ‘two-speed Europe’. The debateover Eurobonds opened a Pandora’s box on this issue and produced the same conflicts between ‘northern’ and ‘southern’ countries that we saw in the last crises.
The left in Europe has the duty to warn about how nationalism and the strengthening of right-wing movements are linked to an unequal development that divides people along a contrived axis.
Thank you for the interview!