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03ZAGREB602 2003-03-18 08:30:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Zagreb
Cable title:  

CROATIAN PARLIAMENT "PUNTS" ON ELECTION LAW

Tags:   PGOV PHUM PREL HR 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ZAGREB 000602 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SCE (NARDI)
USOSCE FOR POL(HELWIG)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/17/2008
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL PHUM PREL HR HRPGOV
SUBJECT: CROATIAN PARLIAMENT "PUNTS" ON ELECTION LAW
CONFIDENTIAL


PAGE 02 ZAGREB 00602 01 OF 02 180840Z

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

SUMMARY
-------



1. (C) POLITICAL PARTIES IN CROATIA'S RULING COALITION COULD
NOT AGREE ON A MODEL FOR ELECTION LAW REFORM AND HAVE DECIDED
INSTEAD TO MAKE "TECHNICAL CHANGES" TO EXISTING LEGISLATION.
THE COALITION NEVER REALLY MOVED BEYOND THE THEORIZING STAGE
IN ITS EFFORTS TO CUT THE POLITICAL DEAL WHICH WOULD HAVE
BEEN NECESSARY TO CHANGE CROATIA'S ELECTION LAW. FOUR
SEPARATE DRAFTS WERE DEBATED IN THE PARLIAMENT, AND TWO HAVE
MOVED ON TO A SECOND READING, BUT NONE OF CROATIA'S POLITICAL
LEADERS EXPECTS EITHER OF THEM TO BECOME LAW. WHILE CROATIA
APPEARS TO HAVE MISSED AN OPPORTUNITY TO INCREASE THE
ACCOUNTABILITY OF POLITICIANS TO VOTERS, IT HAS OPTED FOR
GREATER STABILITY: THIS WILL BE THE FIRST TIME SINCE
INDEPENDENCE THAT GENERAL ELECTIONS HAVE TAKEN PLACE TWICE
UNDER THE SAME RULES. END SUMMARY.



2. (C) CROATIA'S CONSTITUTION REQUIRES THAT ANY NEW
LEGISLATION REGULATING ELECTIONS BE ADOPTED A FULL YEAR PRIOR
TO THE DATE OF EXPECTED ELECTIONS. BECAUSE THE CROATIAN
PARLIAMENT TOOK UP ITS MANDATE IN FEBRUARY 2000, THE LATEST
POSSIBLE DATE ELECTIONS COULD TECHNICALLY TAKE PLACE IS APRIL
2004 (SIXTY DAYS AFTER THE EXPIRY OF THE CURRENT MANDATE),
WHICH MEANS THAT IF A NEW ELECTION LAW WAS TO BE PASSED
BEFORE THE DEADLINE, IT MUST MOVE QUICKLY. WHILE THAT
DEADLINE IS CONSIDERED NON-BINDING BY SOME POLITICAL
OBSERVERS (SINCE THERE IS NO SANCTION IF IT IS MISSED), MOST
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 03 ZAGREB 00602 01 OF 02 180840Z
OBSERVERS THINK THAT THOSE WHO WERE PRESSING FOR REFORM
MISSED THEIR CHANCE.



3. (C) THEORIZING ABOUT HOW TO REFORM CROATIA'S ELECTION LAW
HAS BEEN A POPULAR PASTIME IN ZAGREB, BUT THE TEMPO OF
DISCUSSION INCREASED AS THE LIKELY DATE FOR ELECTIONS DREW
NEARER. WHILE PUBLIC STATEMENTS VARY, MOST POLITICIANS TELL
US PRIVATELY THAT THEY EXPECT ELECTIONS TO TAKE PLACE THIS
FALL, IN OCTOBER OR NOVEMBER. THE PARLIAMENT'S POWERFUL
COMMITTEE FOR CONSTITUTION, RULES AND POLITICAL SYSTEMS HAD
BEEN WORKING ON A VARIETY OF DRAFTS FOR NEARLY A YEAR, BUT
COULD NOT AGREE ON A SINGLE SYSTEM. COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN MATO
ARLOVIC (SDP) DESCRIBED FOR US A COMPLICATED PROPOSAL FOR
COMBINING PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION WITH DIRECT ELECTION
FROM AN OPEN LIST. EVEN AS HE DESCRIBED THE THEORY, HE TOLD
US THAT IT HAD LITTLE CHANCE OF BECOMING LAW.

EVERYBODY'S GOT A DRAFT ELECTION LAW


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





4. (SBU) RATHER THAN SITTING DOWN AND AGREEING ON A
COMPROMISE SOLUTION, THE COALITION'S TWO LARGEST PARTIES --
THE SDP AND HSS -- FORMALLY SUBMITTED THEIR OWN SEPARATE
DRAFTS FOR CONSIDERATION BY THE PARLIAMENT. THE OPPOSITION
DEMOCRATIC CENTER (DC - WITH ONLY THREE SEATS IN THE CURRENT
PARLIAMENT) TABLED ITS DRAFT, AND ONE MP FROM THE IDS
(ISTRIAN DEMOCRATIC UNION - A REGIONAL PARTY) AND ONE FROM
THE LS (LIBERAL PARTY - WITH FOUR SEATS) TABLED YET ANOTHER.

MINORITY REPRESENTATION, DIASPORA, REDISTRICTING


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

---
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PAGE 04 ZAGREB 00602 01 OF 02 180840Z



5. (SBU) ALL OF THE SPONSORS OF THE VARIOUS DRAFTS ASSERT
THAT THEIR COMMON GOAL IS TO INCREASE THE LEVEL OF MPS'
DIRECT RESPONSIBILITY TO VOTERS BY LETTING VOTERS, RATHER
THAN PARTY LEADERS, DECIDE WHICH CANDIDATES FROM A PARTY LIST
SECURE SEATS IN PARLIAMENT. WHILE THEY TREAT THE ISSUE
DIFFERENTLY, ALL OF THE DRAFTS INCREASE THE NUMBER OF ETHNIC
MINORITY REPRESENTATIVES TO COMPLY WITH THE NEW
CONSTITUTIONAL LAW ON NATIONAL MINORITIES. THE DRAFTS
DIFFERED WIDELY ON HOW -- AND INTO HOW MANY DISTRICTS -- TO
DIVIDE UP THE ELECTORAL SPACE AND ALSO ON HOW TO TREAT THE
CONTENTIOUS ISSUE OF DIASPORA VOTING.



6. (SBU) THE SDP PROPOSAL CALLED FOR CROATIA TO BE
CONSIDERED A SINGLE ELECTORAL DISTRICT, WITH CANDIDATES
CHOSEN FROM A "SEMI-OPEN" LIST. REGIONAL AND SMALLER PARTIES
CRIED FOUL, DECLARING THAT THE SDP WAS TRYING TO "KILL THE
SMALLER PARTIES." PARTIES MUST TAKE AT LEAST FIVE PERCENT OF
THE TOTAL VOTES CAST IN ANY ONE DISTRICT TO WIN A SHARE OF
THE SEATS IN THE PARLIAMENT FOR THAT DISTRICT, AND ONLY THE
LARGER, NATIONAL LEVEL PARTIES WOULD GET OVER THAT BAR IF THE
ENTIRE COUNTRY WAS A SINGLE DISTRICT. THE HSS PROPOSED A
MIXED SYSTEM, WHERE HALF OF THE SABOR WOULD BE ELECTED IN 65
WINNER-TAKE-ALL DISTRICTS, AND THE OTHER HALF IN A SINGLE

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CONFIDENTIAL PTQ5404

PAGE 01 ZAGREB 00602 02 OF 02 180841Z
ACTION EUR-00

INFO LOG-00 NP-00 AF-00 AID-00 AMAD-00 CIAE-00 INL-00
DODE-00 SRPP-00 DS-00 EB-00 FBIE-00 VC-00 TEDE-00
INR-00 IO-00 LAB-01 L-00 VCE-00 AC-01 NSAE-00
NSCE-00 OIC-02 OMB-01 DHS-00 OPIC-01 PA-00 PM-00
PRS-00 ACE-00 P-00 SCT-00 SP-00 STR-00 TRSE-00
USIE-00 IIP-00 PMB-00 DSCC-00 PRM-00 DRL-01 G-00
NFAT-00 SAS-00 SWCI-00 /007W


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

461748 180841Z /38
P 180830Z MAR 03
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9732
INFO AMEMBASSY BELGRADE PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY LJUBLJANA PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY SARAJEVO PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY SKOPJE PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY SOFIA PRIORITY
USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY
USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 02 OF 02 ZAGREB 000602

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SCE (NARDI)
USOSCE FOR POL(HELWIG)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/17/2008
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL PHUM PREL HR HRPGOV
SUBJECT: CROATIAN PARLIAMENT "PUNTS" ON ELECTION LAW
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 02 ZAGREB 00602 02 OF 02 180841Z

COUNTRY-WIDE ELECTORAL DISTRICT BASED ON PROPORTIONAL
REPRESENTATION (WITH POLITICAL PARTIES DECIDING ON CANDIDATE
LISTS).



7. (SBU) ALL OF THE COALITION PARTIES AGREE THAT, REGARDLESS
OF WHETHER THEY PASS A NEW LAW OR JUST TINKER WITH EXISTING
LEGISLATION, THE WAY THE CROATIAN DIASPORA IS REPRESENTED
MUST CHANGE. CROATIA'S CONSTITUTION GIVES CITIZENSHIP TO
ETHNIC CROATS REGARDLESS OF WHERE THEY RESIDE. THE EXISTING
TUDJMAN-ERA STATUTE ALLOWS ALL CITIZENS TO VOTE, EVEN IF THEY
HAVE NEVER LIVED IN CROATIA. THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF
ETHNIC CROATS WHO VOTED FROM ABROAD IN THE 2000 ELECTIONS
WERE HARD-LINE HDZ SUPPORTERS IN BOSNIA. THE SDP PROPOSAL
WOULD ALLOW FOR DIASPORA VOTING, BUT WOULD REQUIRE PROOF OF
LEGAL RESIDENCE IN CROATIA FOR THREE MONTHS PRIOR TO
ELECTIONS. THE HSS PROPOSED TO LIMIT DIASPORA MPS TO THREE,
WITH ONE FROM EUROPE, ONE FROM NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA, AND
ONE REPRESENTING THE DIASPORA IN AFRICA AND AUSTRALIA.



8. (C) THE IDS/LS PROPOSAL TO ADDRESS THE DIASPORA ISSUE WAS
BASED ON A BILATERAL AGREEMENT WITH BIH ON DUAL CITIZENSHIP,
STILL TO BE NEGOTIATED. CROATIA AND BIH CONTINUE
NEGOTIATIONS AND MAY YET CONCLUDE THE AGREEMENT, WHICH WOULD
PREVENT BIH CITIZENS FROM VOTING IN MORE THAN ONE COUNTRY'S
ELECTIONS. BUT HIGH REPRESENTATIVE PADDY ASHDOWN'S JANUARY
2003 DECISION TO DELAY IMPOSING A DUAL CITIZENSHIP LAW IN BIH
MAY HAVE TAKEN THE ISSUE OFF THE FRONT BURNER.

HDZ: WAIT AND SEE


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


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PAGE 03 ZAGREB 00602 02 OF 02 180841Z



9. (C) THE OPPOSITION HDZ, CROATIA'S LARGEST PARTY, HAS NOT
PUT FORWARD A PROPOSAL OF ITS OWN, EVEN THOUGH IT STANDS TO
LOSE THE MOST WHEN DIASPORA VOTING RIGHTS ARE CURTAILED. HDZ
PRESIDENT SANADER'S EARLY "SOUND BITE" ON CHANGING THE
ELECTION LAW HAS BEEN "WE'LL WIN WITH ANY SYSTEM," ALTHOUGH
HIS PARTY STANDS TO LOSE THE MOST IF BOSNIAN CROATS ARE
RESTRICTED FROM VOTING. A MORE LIKELY REASON FOR THE HDZ'S
RETICENCE TO SUBMIT A DRAFT IS THAT ITS LEADERS KNOW THE
COALITION WILL VOTE DOWN ANYTHING THEY PROPOSE.



10. (C) ON FEBRUARY 14, THE PARLIAMENT INSTRUCTED THE
COMMITTEE FOR CONSTITUTION, RULES AND POLITICAL SYSTEMS TO
PREPARE "TECHNICAL CHANGES" TO THE EXISTING ELECTION LAW IN
ORDER TO BRING IT INTO COMPLIANCE WITH CHANGES IN THE
CONSTITUTION AND THE NEW LAW ON NATIONAL MINORITIES. IN WHAT
COULD SEEM LIKE A CONTRADICTION, THE PARLIAMENT ALSO
PERMITTED THE SDP AND HSS DRAFT ELECTION LAWS TO ADVANCE IN
THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS. NOW THAT THESE BILLS HAVE PASSED
THEIR "FIRST READING," THEY WILL BE SCHEDULED FOR A SECOND
AND FINAL DEBATE WITHIN SIX MONTHS UNLESS THEY ARE WITHDRAWN
BY THEIR SPONSORS. ONE POLITICAL ANALYST SUGGESTED THAT THE
HSS AND SDP WANT TO KEEP THE "THREAT" TO SMALLER PARTIES
ACTIVE TO ENSURE THAT SMALLER COALITION PARTNERS SUPPORT THE
"TECHNICAL CHANGES" TO THE EXISTING LAW. ANTE MARKOV, A
SENIOR HSS MP, TOLD US THAT THE PARLIAMENT WILL PROBABLY
AGREE TO SOME SORT OF RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT TO RESTRICT THE
DIASPORA VOTE UNTIL CLEAR RULES DEFINING DUAL NATIONALITY ARE
DEVELOPED.
ROSSIN

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