Croatia's presidential election
In Croatia, the Social Democratic former prime minister Zoran Milanović has won the first round of the presidential election. He secured roughly 30 percent of the vote, giving him a lead against the incumbent conservative president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. A second round of voting will now decide who wins. While the Croatian press is at odds over the candidates, commentators in neighbouring countries examine the long-term consequences.
Washout PM as president?
Jutarnji list says those who gave Zoran Milanović the majority of votes must have very short memories:
“Zoran Milanović was the least successful European prime minister [from 2011 to 2016]. His mandate was characterised by a rise in unemployment and economic decline. He hasn't made any progress in the meantime. A few years older, as unpleasantly aggressive as ever and a lot fatter, Zoran Milanović has shown that he has political clout. Now he is fighting for a position from which, if he wins, fortunately he won't have any direct destructive influence on the executive. Will his potential victory make the party he once led happy? Or will Zoran Milanović give lessons from the presidential office which he scorned as prime minister and ruin the Social Democratic Party for the people before the next elections?”
A lesson for the ruling party
The fact that the independent right-wing populist singer Miroslav Škoro almost threw the incumbent president out of the second round of elections should be a warning to the HDZ, Večernji list believes:
“An independent candidate without a party infrastructure, supported by dissatisfied HDZ members and voters, almost posed a real threat to the candidate of the powerful HDZ. It was only the party machinery that save her. ... In her speech yesterday Grabar-Kitarović said to voters who had voted for other parties that she had heard and understood the message they sent by voting for her rival, but that this was no time for division, since it would only reinforce Milanović's policy of 'us or them'. Will that be enough for her to secure victory in the next two weeks?”
Grabar-Kitarović must watch her words
The sitting president will have to act with great caution if she wants to win, says Dnevnik:
“The outcome of the second round will depend more than ever on the current president herself. She will have to be much more cautious and thoughtful in her statements, which have kept all Croatia entertained, because now they can no longer be drowned out by similar 'nonsense' from other candidates. Her statements will be far more prominent, especially since Milanović is not a politician who is easily seduced into undigested populism. He is able to turn even the smallest mistakes of his opponents very quickly and skilfully to his advantage. But there is another trap awaiting him: namely his dream of victory, which could prompt him to start making use of right-wing, nationalist sentiments.”
A different Croatia showing itself
Given the shift to the right in Croatian politics, it would send a positive signal if Zoran Milanović actually did become president, writes Péter Techet, columnist for news website Azonnali:
“His victory alone would serve to counter-balance the mood in Croatia, which is also increasingly hostile towards foreigners and minorities. ... A victory for Milanović would signal that there is another Croatia ... A Croatia that is happy that there are still Serbs and Italians living in the country, that doesn't focus solely on the negative legacy of Yugoslavia, and that views Franjo Tudjman not only as the founder of the state, but also recognises that he was a corrupt politician. A Croatia that wants to model itself on Slovenia rather than Hungary.”