Junior coalition partners do not want Mayor Bandić's MPs in the ruling majority



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Andrej Plenković

The so-called Bandić's defectors will be one of the topics Prime Minister and HDZ president Andrej Plenković will discuss with his coalition partners. There is no set agenda, but the Prime Minister told us they were certain to talk about that particular issue. He said he had repeatedly expressed his view on the constant increase of Bandić's caucus in the Sabor could only reiterate the position to his coalition partners.

Most recently, when MP Mladen Madjer, formerly affiliated with the Peasants' Party (HSS), split off and   joined the "Bandić Milan 365 - Labor and Solidarity Party", the Prime Minister only said that the defection had nothing to do either with the Government or the HDZ. HSS party president Krešo Beljak reacted to Madjer's change of affiliation with greater agitation, publicly accusing the defector of doing if "for a bag of money" and formally demanding an investigation by the Office for the Suppression of Organized Crime and Corruption (USKOK). In that, he followed the example of People's Party (HNS) president Ivan Vrdoljak, who had already sought USKOK action after a defection to Bandić of members of his own party.

Will of the voters

It seems, however, that few people want to see the defectors in the ranks of the ruling majority.  This is especially true of the last four to join Milan Bandić's caucus -- Madjer and the three former members of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Zdravko Ronko, Milanka Opačić and Ana Komparić Devčić.

In response to Bandić's perceived violation of the will of the voters and political corruption, People's Party – Reformists (NS-R) president Radimir Čačić has withdrawn their MP Darinko Dumbovič from Bandić's caucus. Thus, all Plenković's coalition partners have distanced themselves from Bandić. HDZ parliamentary caucus leader Branko Bačić has unequivocally said that Bandić's defectors were not part of the ruling majority.

Bandić found the statement strongly insulting. His caucus spokesman Slavko Rako said Bačić had surprised them very unpleasantly. - We do not accept the division of the caucus in such a way - said Rako - especially after our unanimous support to the state budget, which is normally an annual test for the government.

Yet, Bandić himself no longer insists that, with twelve MPs in his caucus, he is Plenković's biggest and strongest coalition partner.

"I received the invitation to tomorrow's meeting, but I have no idea what the issues will be", said Bandić's Kažimir Varda on Monday. - We are partners with the HDZ, but we do not have a coalition agreement and we do not participate in the distribution of [government posts].

- Our caucus members are free to express their views and to vote [in their own way]. At the same time, we will [neither question nor test] the stability of the ruling majority. Of course, we try to align our opinions on certain issues in the caucus, but there is no restriction on the freedom of expression. That is one of the reasons so many independent MPs are defecting to us.

Caucus members

Social Liberal Party (HSLS) president Darinko Kosor says he believes all members of the ruling coalition will decide that Bandić's defectors are not part of the coalition.

-- It is unacceptable for Milan Bandić, who has been charged with political corruption, to create an atmosphere in which we all look like him -- he said. Political corruption will soon prove unacceptable. I do not consider defectors to be part of the ruling coalition, and it is good to hear the HDZ saying it, too.

Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) president Milorad Pupovac was also very sharp on the matter. -- All of us, Members of Parliament, whether we are in the ruling majority or in the opposition, should feel extremely embarrassed about what is happening -- he told the Croatian Radio.

The HDZ parliamentary caucus will also meet today. As usual, coalition representatives, including that of Bandić's caucus, will be invited. No one there was able to tell us who would attend. In HDZ, they tell us that the practice has been for the four representatives of the minorities, plus independents in Bandić's caucus Ivica Mišić and Kažimir Varda. Before, also attending was Darinko Dumbović. Former SDP members Ronko and Opaćić, have never attended such a meeting and have also avoided voting in the Sabor. Ana Komparić Devčić and Mladen Madjer have not yet had a chance to attend as members of Bandić's caucus.