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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
03ZAGREB2432 2003-11-18 14:15:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Zagreb
Cable title:  

ELECTIONS: NEW POLLS SHOW RACE CLOSER THAN EVER

Tags:   PGOV PHUM HR 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L ZAGREB 002432 

SIPDIS


DEPARTMENT FOR EUR (KABUMOTO)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/18/2013
TAGS: PGOV PHUM HR
SUBJECT: ELECTIONS: NEW POLLS SHOW RACE CLOSER THAN EVER

CLASSIFIED BY: POLOFF A.F.GODFREY FOR REASONS 1.5 (B,D)

SUMMARY
-------



1. (C) SEPARATE POLLS PUBLISHED IN CROATIA'S TWO LEADING
DAILY NEWSPAPERS ON NOVEMBER 17 INDICATE THAT THE RACE FOR
CROATIA'S NOVEMBER 23 PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION WILL BE A PHOTO
FINISH. ONE PAPER GIVES THE EDGE TO A RIGHT-OF-CENTER
COALITION LED BY THE NATIONALIST HDZ AND THE OTHER SUGGESTS
THAT A LEFT-OF CENTER COALITION LED BY PM RACAN'S SDP IS
AHEAD BY A NOSE. BOTH POLLS SHOW THAT THE FATE OF SMALLER
PARTIES WITHIN THE TWO GROUPINGS IS CHANGING. THE MOST
DRAMATIC CHANGE IS THE GAIN BY THE EXTREME RIGHT-WING HSP.
WHILE THIS TREND IS NOTEWORTHY, IT PROBABLY DOES NOT
REPRESENT A NATIONALIST SHIFT IN THE CROATIAN ELECTORATE, BUT
THE DESERTION OF SOME OF THE HDZ'S MOST EXTREME SUPPORTERS TO
THE HSP. END SUMMARY.



2. (C) WITH LESS THAN A WEEK TO GO BEFORE PARLIAMENTARY
ELECTIONS, CROATIA'S SENSATIONALIST PRESS IS FULL OF POLLING
DATA, SOME OF WHICH HAS LITTLE MEANING. ON NOVEMBER 17,
ZAGREB'S TWO LARGEST-CIRCULATION DAILIES PUBLISHED POLLS
WHICH SUGGEST THIS ELECTION WILL BE THE CLOSEST IN CROATIAN
HISTORY. VECERNJI LIST COMMISSIONED A POLL THAT WAS
CONDUCTED BY TELEPHONE FROM BETWEEN NOVEMBER 10-15 WITH 1800
RESPONDENTS ACROSS CROATIA. ONLY TWO-THIRDS OF THOSE POLLED
SAID THEY INTENDED TO VOTE, AND ANOTHER SIX PERCENT SAID THEY
HAD NOT YET MADE UP THEIR MIND IF THEY WOULD CAST THEIR
BALLOTS. THE POLL SHOWED THAT THE RIGHT-OF-CENTER BLOC LED
BY THE CROATIAN DEMOCRATIC UNION (HDZ) WOULD WIN 71 SEATS,
INCLUDING THE PROJECTED 5 OR 6 REPRESENTATIVES OR CITIZENS
LIVING ABROAD. THE LEFT-OF-CENTER GROUPING SEEN AS LIKELY BY
VECERNJI LIST ANALYSTS, LED BY RACAN'S SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC
PARTY (SDP) BUT INCLUDING THE MORE CONSERVATIVE PEASANT PARTY
(HSS), WOULD WIN 69 SEATS, INCLUDING THE 8 MINORITY VOTES
THAT ARE LIKELY, BUT NOT CERTAIN TO BACK THIS MORE
PROGRESSIVE OPTION.



3. (C) WHILE THE TWO BIGGEST PARTIES -- THE HDZ AND THE SDP
-- ARE HOLDING STEADY, THE HSS SEEMS TO BE LOSING GROUND;
POLLS SUGGEST IT COULD WIN AS FEW AS EIGHT SEATS. THE
CENTER-RIGHT COALITION OF DEMOCRATIC CENTER (DC) AND THE
CROATIAN SOCIAL LIBERAL PARTY (HSLS) -- A LIKELY PARTNER IN A
GOVERNMENT LED BY THE HDZ -- IS LOSING GROUND AS WELL. THE
MORE LIBERAL CROATIAN PEOPLE'S PARTY (HNS), WHICH IS RUNNING
IN COALITION WITH SMALLER REGIONAL PARTIES, COULD BE POISED
TO SURPASS THE HSS TO BECOME THE THIRD STRONGEST POLITICAL
PARTY IN THE NEXT PARLIAMENT WITH 15 SEATS.

NEW HDZ WING OF AN HDZ COALITION?


--------------------------





4. (C) BOTH POLLS SUGGESTED THAT THE EXTREME-RIGHT CROATIAN
PARTY OF RIGHTS (HSP) WILL PERFORM FAR BETTER THAN ORIGINALLY
EXPECTED. FOR SOME VOTERS, THE CHOICE BETWEEN THE HDZ AND
SDP IS NOT DISTINCT ENOUGH. ON BOTH THE LEFT AND RIGHT, MOST
OF THE CANDIDATES FOR SEATS IN CROATIA'S NEXT PARLIAMENT ARE
RUNNING CONVENTIONAL RACES, RELYING ON THE ADVICE OF MODERN
MEDIA CONSULTANTS. ON POLICY ISSUES, MOST CANDIDATES ARE
TRYING TO STAKE OUT THE CENTER GROUND, SHOWING THEIR
QUALIFICATIONS TO LEAD CROATIA TOWARD EURO-ATLANTIC
INSTITUTIONS WHILE GROWING THE ECONOMY. NOT SO THE HSP.
WHILE IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS THE HSP FINALLY PROHIBITED THE
DISPLAY OF WWII-ERA FASCIST SYMBOLS, IT RETAINS ITS EXTREME
NATIONALIST CHARACTER.



5. (C) EMBLEMATIC OF THE HSP CAMPAIGN WAS THE STUNT PULLED
BY LEADING ZAGREB HSP CANDIDATE SLAVEN LETICA. TO KICK OFF
HIS CAMPAIGN, HE RENTED A COSTUME OF THE 19TH CENTURY
CROATIAN VICEROY (AND WAR HERO) BAN JELACIC AND RODE ON
HORSEBACK TO SVETA GERA, DISPUTED TERRITORY ON CROATIA'S
NORTHERN BORDER HELD BY SLOVENIA AND ASKED THE BORDER GUARDS
TO LEAVE CROATIA. ODDLY, THE MEMBER OF THE LAST SABOR VOTED
AS "BEST PARLIAMENTARIAN" BY CROATIA'S JOURNALISTS WAS HSP
MEMBER TONCI TADIC. WHILE JOURNALISTS RARELY AGREED WITH HIS
VIEWS, THEY ALL RESPECTED HIS PROFESSIONALISM AND THOROUGH
PREPARATION FOR FLOOR DEBATES.

COMMENT


--------------------------





6. (C) AS THE HDZ'S RHETORIC -- IF NOT ITS ACTIONS -- MOVES
TOWARDS THE CENTER, ITS MORE RIGHT-WING ELEMENTS ARE FINDING
A NEW HOME IN THE HSP. THE HDZ IS NOT LOSING GROUND,
HOWEVER, AND SEEMS TO BE ATTRACTING SUPPORTERS FROM SMALLER
CONSERVATIVE PARTIES (LIKE THE HSS AND THE HSLS/DC) CLOSER TO
WHAT PASSES FOR THE CENTER IN CROATIA. THE INCREASE OF
SUPPORT FOR THE HSP IS WORRISOME, BUT PROBABLY DOES NOT
REPRESENT A NEW RISE IN EXTREME NATIONALISM IN CROATIA.
FRANK

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