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03ZAGREB2463 2003-11-21 15:51:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Zagreb
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L  ZAGREB 002463 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/21/2013


Classified By: PolOff Mitch Benedict for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d)


1. (SBU) Under Croatia's peculiar election law, Serbs are
pulled in two different directions in the run up to voting.
They can vote for candidates on the minority lists or for
candidates on the national lists but not for both. At a
rally November 20, candidates of the moderate Independent
Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) encouraged voters to vote for
the ethnic lists. Some say this makes no sense: the Serbs
are guaranteed three seats in the next parliament no matter
how few votes they get, so they should vote for the national
parties most sensitive to their issues to ensure maximum
influence. Not so, says the SDSS. Vote for them on the
ethnic lists so SDSS members of parliament have the
credibility of being backed by a large constituency. They
will then be better positioned to do the bidding of Croatia's
Serbian community, and maybe even play the role of a
kingmaker in an otherwise evenly divided legislature, with
whatever coalition eventually emerges after elections. End

Last Day of Campaigning


2. (U) With one full day of campaigning remaining in the run
up to parliamentary elections on November 23, we attended a
Zagreb rally of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS).
Held in a small concert hall in the center of the city,
better known for rock concerts, the rally drew a mostly
middle-aged and elderly crowd of approximately 250. A
traditional Serbian band opened the rally, which was attended
by current SDSS office holders from across the country, as
well as the party's top three candidates: Vojislav
Stanomirovic, President of the SDSS, Milorad Pupovac, Vice
President, and Ratko Gajica.

3. (C) All three candidates repeated a now familiar theme of
the SDSS campaign -- ethnic Serbs should vote for candidates
on the ethnic Serb minority list. To urge all Serbs to vote
on the minority list, when they are guaranteed three seats
regardless of the number of voters, would appear illogical on
the surface, since by doing so the Serbian leadership is
putting at risk the reelection of a center-left coalition,
their natural allies. At least three factors explain the
logic. First, although there are three seats guaranteed for
Serbs, this election presents a real competition between
Serbs. Some observers predict the SDSS will win two seats
and Milan Djukic, a more extreme populist -- based on name
recognition alone -- will win one. However, the SDSS dreams
of winning all three seats, as well as one or two diaspora
seats, which would make them a respectable small party in
Parliament and a force to reckon with. Though highly
unlikely, an SDSS electoral sweep would require a significant
increase in Serbs voting on the ethnic list.

4. (C) Second, along with so many other segments of the SDP's
electoral base, ethnic Serbs are angry and disillusioned by
what they view as the ruling coalition's abject failure to
resolve their issues. They want a government of the left,
but not a continuation of the current coalition, according to
Pupovac. He declared that the last three and a half years
have been wasted, and Croatian Serbs need a courageous and
decisive government that takes their votes more into account
than the voters of the HDZ. Pupovac said that Prime Minister
Racan's much delayed call for Croatian Serbs to return was as
convincing as when Tudjman told them not to leave.

5. (SBU) Gajica told the small crowd that he was approached
in Knin -- the center of the war-affected area near the
Bosnian border, with a population now consisting entirely of
either returned Serbs or settled Bosnian Croatians -- by a
representative of the ruling coalition, who said "since it
only takes one vote each to get all three of your (Serb)
members elected, give your votes to us." Gajica's response,
intended to roil his audience, was that "they had our votes
on a platter" before, but failed to address in any meaningful
way issues of direct concern to the Serbian community.
Stressing the theme that Serbs will not be taken for granted
any more prompted loud applause.

6. (C) Finally, to affect the work of the Parliament, and to
be a legitimate partner of the ruling coalition, Serbs
elected to fill the minority seats need to be able to say
they speak for the Serbian community. We attended SDSS
rallies both in Knin and in Zagreb earlier, and the message

was identical -- if only 10,000 Serbs vote on the minority
list, and 100,000 Serbs vote for the ruling coalition, then
the Government will be able to claim rightly that they have
the mandate to speak for the Serbs. Gajica called such
thinking "dangerous," and urged Serbs to use their numbers to
build an organization that is both strong and lasting.
Gajica and Stanomirovic both have stated at rallies that they
hope such ethnic politics will not be relevant in 20 years,
but lament that it is a realistic necessity now in order for
Serbs to get their issues addressed. Pupovac privately has
told us he would feel more comfortable within the folds of a
"civic" social democratic party, but democracy in Croatia is
not yet at the stage where there are issue-based political
parties able to address minority issues adequately.

Not mincing Words


7. (U) Looking tired and somewhat edgy, Pupovac ventured into
territory normally off limits to politicians. It was
"offensive and humiliating" for Serbs to be asked if they are
"full Croatians" and loyal to Croatia. He told the audience
he personally hoped for a Croatia unencumbered, without
disbelief, bad feelings, and mistrust. Sounding much more
like a psychologist than the professor of rhetoric that he
is, Pupovac expressed hope for a Croatia that could have a
"relaxed relationship with itself." He spoke of a country
where all are treated equal, and each is valued.

8. (U) A large part of Croatia was silenced, he continued,
and the ruling coalition has not done its job to remove this
suppression. Speaking of all Croatians, he said people need
self-confidence, and should believe more in themselves,
rather than seek such confirmation elsewhere. Addressing
Serbs directly, he said, "we certainly need to face certain
truths, to ask why we are guilty too, either for omissions or
for what others were doing on our behalf." However, he
spread the blame when he intoned that Serbs should be able to
accept not just their guilt but also those things for which
they are not guilty -- and he then listed Croatian cities in
which war crimes were committed against Serbian civilians.



9. (C) From talking to ethnic Serbs, particularly their
political leadership, and attending some of their rallies, it
is clear that the Racan-led coalition has left many
disenchanted. They see less need to vote for what would be
their logical coalition partners on the center-left -- even
if it means nationalist parties benefit on election day.
Indeed, some Croatian Serb leaders may hope that the group of
eight minority seats in the next parliament becomes a
potential king maker in an otherwise evenly divided
legislature -- giving the minorities more clout to extract
concessions, from either a Racan-led or a Sanader-led
government. A second reason why SDSS wants Croatian Serbs to
vote for ethnic lists is more crass: the party cannot stand
Milan Djukic, leader of the rival Serbian National Party
(SNS). The lower the turnout in the ethnic voting, the
better Dukic will do. In Croatia, as in the rest of the
region, politics is personal.