HDZ counts on the number seven

141.jpgHoping to fend off a strong challenge from the opposition Social Democrats, Croatia’s ruling party has introduced a new platform. Featuring the slogan “3×7”, it promises 7% GDP growth, a 7% unemployment rate and implementation of seven major projects.

The programme was presented at the Croatian Democratic Union’s (HDZ) annual general conference, which kicked off in late June. Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, intent on winning another term in office, gave an impassioned, more than hour-long speech in which he defended his administration’s record.

“We have already achieved the goals our opponents can only dream of,” the prime minister said. “A vote for HDZ is the best possible investment in the future of Croatia.”

Sanader’s leadership was the main focus of the conference. According to media analysts, the event made use of an American-style model, with generous use of multimedia, including footage of the prime minister’s meetings with international leaders.

A number of popular figures in Croatia, including athletes Dino Radja, Goran Ivanisevic and Ivano Balic, as well as musicians Miso Kovac and Jacques Houdek, have come out in favour of HDZ. Their support was highlighted during the convention.

One proposal that drew considerable public attention was the idea of lowering the voting age from 18 to 16. The HDZ also says it will make secondary school obligatory as it focuses attention on educational reform and social issues.

In his address to delegates, Sanader said the party has made a huge effort to boost Croatia’s economy and improve the country’s image internationally. Croatia is now in accession talks with the EU and anticipates receiving an invitation to join NATO at the Alliance’s next summit.

“The state budget has received additional 30 billion kunas [4 billion euros], we have lowered the deficit from 6.3% to 2.6%, we have started to return the debt to the retired persons, [and] we have opened 85,000 new working places and 200 investment zones in Croatia,” Sanader said.

The opposition has dismissed the HDZ convention as a political show. According to Zoran Milanovic, head of the Social Democrats, the ruling party was just seeking to demonstrate unity and Sanader’s leadership. Meanwhile, the Croatian People’s Party (HNS) claims the HDZ has copied its own reform platform.

Sanader and the HDZ will be unable to implement the allegedly stolen platform, the HNS said, because it will be out of power following the elections.

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