The party's new leadership will immediately begin to prepare for the upcoming local elections.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Zagreb -- 26/05/12
A new era begins for the main opposition Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) this week, after the party elected former secret service chief Tomislav Karamarko as its new president. The new leadership says that the party needs to fully democratise, and analysts and citizens believe that it's the only political way out for HDZ if they want to survive.
For the past six months, HDZ has faced numerous scandals. The party lost the October elections last year, and turned to face the corruption scandals that led to the arrest of its former president -- and prime minister -- Ivo Sanader.
However, the move shifts the party stance towards the rightist segment of the political spectrum -- turning it back to its nationalist roots and causing a political tremour in the country, which is hoping to join the EU next year.
"The party must return to its roots and revive real patriotism," Karamarko said after his victory, where he beat out four other candidates, including former Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, who helped put Croatia on the path to join the EU.
"We will finally become the real opposition," said Karamarko, 53.
Josipa Rimac, a new member of the party presidency, said that 90% of people from Karamarko's team won positions, marking a long needed turn to full democrasiation.
Among the new leadership there are a lot of young people with experience, current mayors, former ministers and MPs.
"We will support all that is good for Croatia, but everything that is not in the interest of the citizens will be criticised," Rimac told SETimes.
Davorka Budimir, political analyst and vice president of the Croatian Political Science Association, told SETimes that the delegates had no choice but to shift the old leadership of the party.
"Karamarko is also from the 'old guard' of the HDZ, but we can say that he could achieve to be politically socialised and reject the old methods of running the party. Democratisation is a process like any other and it takes considerable time [for] some political party to be democratised," Budimir said.
Citizens are satisfied with the change, but warned that HDZ must break with the past.
"Any change is good. HDZ should consolidate their lines so the political scene has a strong opposition and in order not to allow that party ... to become all-powerful," Misko Greguric, a 24-year-old student of political science from Zagreb, told SETimes.
Zagreb resident Gorica Vukmir, 32, believes that new leadership will improve the image of the HDZ party, which had been at risk.
"I always voted for the HDZ until the last election. You cannot vote for someone whose chief is a thief. I hope that the new chief will correct the error," Vukmir told SETimes.