Old party leader for a new era in Croatia

12/05/2008

The SDP convention was a major triumph for incumbent Zoran Milanovic. He received more than 79% of the delegates' votes and announced new policies for the biggest opposition party in Croatia.

By Natasa Radic for Southeast European Times in Zagreb -- 12/05/08

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Zoran Milanovic was re-elected on Saturday (May 10th) as leader of the SDP. [Getty Images]

Zoran Milanovic won the party presidency of the Social Democrats (SDP) in a landslide on Saturday (May 10th), receiving more than 79% of the delegates' votes. His two rivals, Davorko Vidovic and Dragan Kovacevic, won 11% and 9%, respectively. More than 1,800 delegates voted in the largest opposition party's leadership election.

Milanovic won a four-year mandate He first became party president in June 2007, succeeding long-time SDP leader Ivica Racan, who died of cancer. Although he failed to lead his party to victory in the November 2007 elections, the SDP enjoyed the best results in its history, winning 56 parliamentary seats. The ruling HDZ party had only six more seats but managed to form the government and retain power. Milanovic says he is ready and willing to lead the party to its "next election victory".

"Our team must be ready to assume political power in the country in four years' time, and then we will lead this country. We will not surrender; we will not cheat," Milanovic said on Saturday.

"Martin Luther King said, 'I have a dream.' ... I don't have a dream, but I know the SDP has a plan. This is a plan for a new and better Croatia," he said.

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Saturday's convention was a personal triumph for Milanovic, as nobody challenged his vision for the party. However, he announced that he will pursue new policies that should enable the SDP to win the local elections next year and later take parliament.

Milanovic is viewed as a decisive and sometimes stubborn politician, thereby sometimes irritating "old-fashioned" factions within the SDP who prefer debate and analysis to fast decision-making.

Thus, Milanovic will have to convince his party members that his decisions are intelligent and necessary. The Croatian daily Jutarnji List says that "he might face opposition in his own backyard".

"We did not win the parliamentary elections, so the SDP must change to win next time. When the SDP changes, society changes, too," Milanovic said.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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