On 3 January former prime minister of Croatia Ivo Sanader announced his return to politics, a move which according to some observers could bring down the coalition government led by his conservative party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). Ranko Ostojic, member of the presidency of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), argued that the serious instability within the HDZ confirms the validity of the SDP demand to hold early elections.
At a press conference Sanader said his decision to re-enter politics was motivated by the poor showing of the HDZ candidate Andrija Hebrang in presidential elections last week: “I made this decision because in the first round of the presidential elections, HDZ got the worst result since its founding in 1989,” Sanader said, adding that the result is mainly a consequence of the deficient party leadership. Finally, Sanader stated that his “decision to retire from politics was completely wrong”. Hebrang won just 12 per cent of the vote, failing to reach the run-off which will be held on January 10 between Ivo Josipovic of the SDP and independent candidate and mayor of Zagreb Milan Bandic.
Sanader was Croatia’s prime minister from 2003 until he unexpectedly withdraw in the summer of 2009 due to ‘personal reasons’. It was alleged in some media that his abrupt exit from politics was aimed at avoiding the corruption scandals, but Sanader strongly denied the allegations saying he stepped down because he was “not ready to sell Croatia’s territory” for the sake of European Union membership, referring to the border dispute with Slovenia which was blocking Croatia’s EU integration. After his resignation the former prime minister retained the ambiguous title of honorary party chairman. Sanader said he now intends to play an active role in the party and is also considering the reactivation of his parliamentary post, which he had put on hold after his appointment as prime minister in 2003.
Political analysts in Croatia argued that Sanader’s return will destabilise the party even more.
Prominent HDZ party members have already strongly condemned Sanader’s decision, considering it as a classic coup d'état. For now it seems that most prominent party members support prime minister Jadranka Kosor, who will give a statement on 4 January after the meeting of the presidency of HDZ which is not attended by Sanader.
Source: Hrvatska Radio Televizija, NRC, BIRN, Vecernji and website SDP