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Monday, 13 December, 1999, 16:42 GMT
Analysis: Where next for Croatia

The end of an era: Tudjman laid to rest

By southeast Europe analyst Gabriel Partos

President Tudjman's funeral coincided with the first day of the official campaign in the run-up to Croatia's parliamentary elections, called for 3 January.

Of course, the campaigning is being put off for the duration of the three days of national mourning. And that is not just mere formality prompted by the requirements of state protocol.

There is widespread grieving for the late president, the architect of Croatia's proclamation of independence in 1991, even among those who disliked his policies.

Genuine outpouring of sadness
"There's genuine grieving for President Tudjman, just because of the simple fact that he got Croatia's independence and fought a war against the Serbian aggression which they moved afterwards to Bosnia and Hercegovina," said Croatian journalist Bruno Lapandic.

"People gather around because of these memories."

Political contest ahead

But once the mourning is over, the political contest is set to move into top gear. Indeed, the unofficial election campaign has already been under way for weeks.

An opposition spokesman has made the point that a funeral is worth a thousand political meetings.

An opposition spokesman has made the point that a funeral is worth a thousand political meetings
The combination of an outpouring of genuine public sympathy and the endless eulogies to the late President on state-controlled television can help the electoral fortunes of Mr Tudjman's conservative Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, the party that's been governing Croatia since 1990.

This sympathy vote may turn out to be an important factor when Croatia's citizens go to the polls.

It is another question whether it will prove sufficient to reverse the trend shown in public opinion polls in recent months which has been showing strong support for the main opposition alliance of Social Democrats and Social Liberals at a time of growing economic discontent.

If the opposition bloc wins, it is likely to pursue a less stridently nationalist policy - a fresh course that would be more in tune with trends promoted in the West, particularly within the European Union.

At the very least, the current opposition grouping is more prepared to discuss taking on board the recommendations offered to Zagreb by international organisations on facilitating the return of Serbian refugees, co-operating more extensively with The Hague War Crimes Tribunal and contributing more positively to Bosnia's reintegration.

Succeeding Tudjman

The forthcoming parliamentary elections are only one of three separate political contests now on the horizon. Mr Tudjman's death has also created a vacancy at the presidency and at the head of the HDZ.

Uncharted political waters ahead
The two heavyweights within the HDZ, the deputy speaker in the outgoing parliament, Vladimir Seks, and presidential adviser Ivic Pasalic, represent different regional brands of hardline Croatian nationalism. They, or their proteges, are expected carry on as the leading politicians within the HDZ.

But that will only have a direct impact outside their party if the HDZ manages to confound the pollsters and hangs on to power.

The race for the presidency is likely to be different. The HDZ has a potentially winning candidate - Foreign Minister Mate Granic.

Although Mr Granic's liberal wing has little influence within the governing party, his popularity among the electorate and his wide-ranging contacts with Croatia's foreign partners may prompt the HDZ to nominate him for the presidential race.

Whoever wins the presidency, though, the centre of political gravity is expected to shift to the government. The authoritarian Mr Tudjman has built up a whole range of informal presidential powers. But these powers are likely to go to the grave with him.

Croatian politics are set to undergo major changes in which the concepts of constitutionality, power-sharing and tolerance - qualities largely alien to Mr Tudjman's form of government - are expected to gain ground. The result could also help Croatia integrate more closely with European institutions.

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See also:
11 Dec 99 |  Europe
In pictures: Croatia mourns
11 Dec 99 |  Europe
Franjo Tudjman: Father of Croatia
26 Nov 99 |  Europe
Analysis: Contemplating life without Tudjman
01 Dec 99 |  Europe
Who will lead Croatia after Tudjman?
13 Dec 99 |  Europe
Croatia bids farewell to Tudjman

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