Croatia Bracing For Electoral Tug of War

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic Announcing Croatian General Elections Photo: Screenshot dnevnik.hr 5 October 2015

On 8 November 2015, Croats will for the first time ever get a taste of a preferential voting system in their parliamentary elections. Voters will be able to circle the name of their preferred candidate on the List they vote for. Preferential votes will be valid for those candidates who receive at least 10% of the List total vote. Voter turnout hasn’t been great in the past and one wonders whether the newly installed preferential voting together with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic’s appeal to the nation, particularly to the young and those who have stayed away from casting their vote at past elections, to vote and thus partake in the decision for the country’s future would change for the better the voter turnout on 8 November?
The fate of our Croatia will be in your hands on that day,” said president Grabar-Kitarovic in her televised announcement of the date for 2015 general elections. “That is the day when the politicians are accountable to you and when democracy takes on its full sense. Having that in mind I invite you to attentively follow what the candidates are offering, what are their programs like and how they will affect your everyday lives for the next four years. I especially wish to invite the youngest voters and those who are voting for the first time. Do not allow others to choose for you. Croatia needs your fresh outlook and your participation in the most important act of democracy … Come out to vote, utilise your right and take ownership of responsibility…”

Although president Grabar-Kitarovic has in the same televised appearance called for the politicians and candidates to steer away from turning the election campaigns into “carnival of democracy”, to behave with political correctness, leave the “ashes of the past” behind and look at ways of creating a better future with joint efforts, the fact remains that all candidates, all political parties are in the race to win seats in parliament, to carry significant clout in a future government.

The president has also asked the media to use its potent influence on shaping attitudes responsibly and contribute ethically to the strengthening of social responsibility.

The way the political pre-election platforms have ignited in Croatia during the past months tells us that Croatia has failed to produce a strong third political option and Croatian government contenders are firmly standing at two camps, and the smaller political satellites if they have not already entered into a coalition with a bigger party will just fit in with whoever wins.

Croatia is nowhere near hammering nails into the coffin of the two party politics and helping new coalitions, alliances and horse-trading bloom even if there are a few emerging forces (Orah, the Reformists, Milan Bandic 365, the Bridge…) that could possibly steal notable thunder from the ruling Social Democrats/SDP (centre left) and the largest opposition Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ (Conservative/ centre right). To hammer nails into the coffin of the two party politics Croatian voters will need to develop into what President Grabar-Kitarovic recommends: look at what candidates are offering you; look at their programs. Sadly, the Croatian votes are still driven by “being against” rather than “being for” when casting their vote. Being for or against what communist Yugoslavia was and being for or against what Franjo Tudjman led (independence) still seem to sit at the back of the voter minds with SDP backers being those who are fighting against coming clean with communist crimes of the past even though they are increasingly thumping their chests with gestures of Croatian patriotism. These ashes from the past are difficult to sweep away and feed the fire of two party politics; feed the “against” vote as opposed the “for” one. It still seems easier for Croatian voters to say “I’m against him, them…” than “I’m for this and that…(program)”.
Croatian voters will decide on 8 November whether the current Social Democrat led government will enter a second mandate or whether Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ – led coalition will get a mandate and a chance to demonstrate that its slogan “Growth-Development-Employment” is actually different from similar striving other political parties are promising at elections and will bring positive results as opposed to empty promises that stem from a seemingly economic impasse.

Electoral polling in Croatia 4 October 2015 Photo: Hina

Neither of the two major parties, SDP and HDZ, is expected to win enough seats, the 76 seats out of 151 needed to govern alone. They are teaming up with smaller parties instead and much will depend on which smaller parties have the best chance at local electorate to win power. This formula seems particularly important given that latest opinion polls, according to the Croatian news agency HINA, place Social Democrats and Croatian Democratic Union almost neck and neck – were the elections to be held beginning October the Social Democrats coalition would get 31.9% of the vote while Croatian Democratic Union and coalition would scoop 32.9% of the vote. In attempts to predict the election outcome the situation becomes more complex when one considers that both the leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (Tomislav Karamarko) and the leader of Social Democrats (Zoran Milanovic) are through opinion polls considered as the most negative politicians in Croatia.

The above polls seem to suggest that Croatia is in a de facto multi-party system when it comes to parliamentary elections, although the third option is still in tatters and competing egos. A third vote Conservative, a third vote Left wing, a third vote somebody else. That somebody else in more cases than not is a historical splinter from either HDZ or SDP and suffers from bad cases of inflated  political egos which see no unity on the horizon. These opinion polls figures may not be counted on as projecting the general elections results in any certain terms but they do suggest that Croatia is bracing for another tug of war during elections where the number of voters against the other main party will decide who wins. The third option, that somebody else, is far too disjointed in terms of being a more or less homogeneous political body to pose a real threat to either HDZ or SDP, but picking out supporting threads from it will be the stuff that will most likely define the majority seat winner at November elections.

If you are planning to cast your vote for the future of Croatia on 8 November, wherever you are – do not forget to register to vote! I believe registrations close 28 October 2015. Voters living abroad should contact the nearest Croatian consular-diplomatic mission and obtain form or simply information how to register to vote.

Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

First published on Oct.07:2015

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War Journalists Labeled Spies, Unprivileged Belligerents. That’s What A New Pentagon Manual Calls Some War Reporters

 

imageedit_3_4673052415First published on August 26, 2015

By | on August 26, 2015

By Lorra B. Staff Writer

US defense Secretary, Ash Carter, is being asked by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) to amend a new Pentagon manual that is labeling war journalists as spies, unprivileged belligerents and saboteurs.

Is this new manual an indication the U.S. government is openly marking journalists who challenge Washington’s objectives?

An open letter was published by RWB to Carter about the Law of War Manual. The manual has infuriated reporters “for saying war reporters may be held liable for ‘engaging in hostilities’ or spying, sabotage and similar acts behind enemy lines’,” according to The Guardian.

The War Manual, was published on June 24 and is 1,176 pages of revisions, the first revisions since 1956.

The revisions include terminology marking journalists stating “in general, journalists are civilians,” and that in some instances these reporters may be viewed as “unprivileged belligerents.”

But what does unprivileged belligerents really mean? Well, ‘unprivileged belligerents,’ according to veteran war corresponded Don North, simply replaces the term ‘unlawful combatants’ and that journalists, therefore are looked upon as nothing more than those in the ranks of Al Qaeda.

Based on this assessment, broad interpretation and hazy wording, journalists could not only be asked to leave military bases but they could also be detained for perceived wrongdoings.

Secretary General Christophe Deloire of Reporters Without Borders stated, “This terminology leaves too much room for interpretation, putting journalists in a dangerous position.”

“Liking journalistic activity to spying is just the kind of ammunition certain repressive countries like Iran, Syria and China would seek out to support their practices of censorship and criminalization of journalists.”

Columbia Journalism Review’s managing editor, Vanessa Gezari, stated, “It’s very threatening. I believe it contradicts at least the spirit of customary battlefield relationships, if not the letter. The relationship between journalists and combatants has always been complicated. The way the language about spying is placed in there is alarming to me in that is says, ‘journalism is a lot like spying’ and then it leaves that to people to make up their own mind. It gets at the commonalities but not the differences.”

The craftily worded manual sets journalist in a whole new category. Journalists will not be classified as either civilian or soldier and therefore have no protections. The manual states that ‘like other civilians, civilian journalists who engage in hostilities against a State, may be punished by that State after a fair trial.”

The “relaying of information,” according to the new manual, may be construed as such an act.

Governments, according to the manual, “may need to censor journalists’ work or take other security measures so that journalists do not reveal sensitive information to the enemy.”

Censor journalists’ work? Really? This does not sound like the ‘America The Free’ I remember. Press freedoms are vitally important to America remaining free. Without them we will become no better than a dictator state.

When the Pentagon begins to crack down and round-up all journalistic work to be reviewed and possibly censored then we will be playing in a whole new ball game and not one for the betterment of American citizens.

Will we become nothing more than the New China or New Russia? When we begin to censor and impede on journalistic freedoms then we start chipping away at the very fabric this great nation was built on. Just where that chipping will lead is a road I, for one, don’t wish to travel.

By Lorra B.

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Exposed: Obama’s Secret Side Deals With Iran

dIn A move that has raged the GOP, President Obama has made secret side deals with Iran.

According to the Associated Press, a side deal was made between Iran and the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency allowing Iran to use its own inspectors to inspect a location accused of building nuclear arms. It is usually the U.N. who inspects such sites, so why not this site?

“International inspections should be done by international inspectors,” stated Ed Royce, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman. “Period.”

It was a document seen by AP that brought this issue to light and that has the Republican lawmakers angered. Already very critical of Obama’s Iran Deal because it is basically built recklessly on trust alone with the Iranians, the GOP finds this new development imprudent.

It was the Obama Administration who insisted it would depend on reliable scrutiny over the Iranian sites in question. Not only the GOP but many of us want to know why, then, are the Iranians inspecting their own sites?

House Speaker John Boehner stated, “President Obama boasts his deal includes ‘unprecedented verification.’ He claims it’s not built on trust. But the administration’s briefings on these side deals have been totally insufficient—and it still isn’t clear whether anyone at the White House has seen the final documents.”

“Worse,” according to ESHRAF, “Obama didn’t even reveal the existence of these secret side deals to Congress when he transmitted the nuclear accord to Capitol Hill. The agreements were uncovered, completely by chance, by two members of Congress — Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — who were in Vienna meeting with the U.N.-related agency.”

It was President Obama who signed into law The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. This law unequivocally states that all materials and ‘annexes’ associated with the Iran Deal must be transmitted by the president to Congress. Well, it seems that the president has broken the law, one in which he wrote.

All of this aside, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is not sure what the disclosure has to do with the Iran Deal because, according to her, the disclosure relates to past military efforts and not any nuclear efforts moving ahead.

Pelosi stated, “I truly believe in this agreement.” If there were a vote today “the president’s veto would be sustained. But I feel very confident about it…We will sustain the veto.”

Before voting on the Iran deal Congress should be adamant about seeing the side deals. How many of us would buy a piece of land site unseen and just take the sellers word for it that the land was fertile, especially when that seller has a bit of a track-record for embellishments?

It will take a two-thirds vote in both houses to override the president’s veto, 45 House Democrats and 13 Senate Democrats.

Pompeo stated, “My mission in the next 45 days is to convince 45 House Democrats to override the veto. It’s a long climb, but this is important.”

Iran is getting ready to come into $150 billion dollars in sanctions relief. These relief moneys are based on negotiated agreements between Iran and IAEA that not one U.S. representative has viewed.

Is this wise, Mr. President? You may very well be putting our national security at great risk. “We need to see these documents in order to evaluate whether verification is ample to make such a big concession to the Iranians,” Pompeo said.

“No member of Congress should be asked to vote on an agreement of this historic importance absent knowing what the terms of the verification process are.”

First published on August 17.2015 by Lorra B.

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