Wednesday, 03 June 2020
Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

You have a new Croatian President, but did you really know what you were voting for?

By  Jan 11, 2020

Finally, some vitamin D! Ten days in the overcast and rain swept English countryside and I was starting to think that the sun had been kidnapped. But landing in Dubrovnik, well to be more precise in Split, and I am squinting in the rays. Yes, our New Year flight back from London was blown off course and forced to land in Split. The isolation of Dubrovnik in the winter months was highlighted as the pilot announced that the bura in Dubrovnik had closed the airport to all traffic. Not that there was much traffic that day with only a handful of flights expected. We are truly in hibernation mode.

So what did I miss? Apart from a new president nothing much it would seem. Even busing in pensioners from all over the wilds of Herzegovina wasn’t enough to change Kolinda’s fate. And Plenkovic was probably in two minds about who he wanted to win.

Sadly, the vast majority of voters still don’t understand that the Croatian president’s role is largely diplomatic. She, sorry he, doesn’t has about as much power as the Queen of England, well quite possibly even less. This is not a US Presidental role. Apart from being the head of the armed forces there isn’t really much work to do apart from being an ambassador. They have no real budget, they aren’t the head of the executive branch so they can’t change government policy and they are far, far from being the most powerful politician in the country.

And being the head of the armed forces is also really a diplomatic role as the Croatian army isn’t moving anywhere without the orders of NATO. Meaning a Croatian President is really the Queen, or now King of Croatia. Waving the flag and shaking hands at the World Cup in Russia whilst wearing the red and white checkerboard football shirt is the height of Croatian presidential influence.

Yes, the president does in some way set the tone of the foreign policy of the country, but that they can actually change something at home, or even abroad is unrealistic, that just isn’t in their mandate. And yet every four years we see presidential candidates promising sweeping changes throughout the country, to make the standard of living better and stop our younger generations fleeing to become Uber drivers in Munich. And every time nothing happens. Why, because they don’t have the political power to do any of those things. They show up and cut the ribbon but they haven’t invested into the actual project, they are heads of state, not political leaders.

There is one film that is always on our screens over the festive period, The Wizard of Oz. Croatian presidential campaigning always reminds me of this classic movie. For those who don’t know the Wizard of Oz pretends to be an all-conquering, all-mighty wizard who can grant wishes to everyone. He orders the four heroes of the film to carry bring him the broom of the Wicked Witch and then he will give them what their heart desires. Clearly he isn’t expecting them to succeed in such a dangerous task. However, much to his surprise, they bring him the broomstick. And this is when they discover the mighty wizard is just a short middle-aged man pretending to be a larger than life leader. He admits when he is caught as a fraud as being “a good man but a bad wizard.”

Of course he can’t grant them their wishes. Does that sound familiar? The new president could promise that my flight would land at Dubrovnik and that the bura would die down, but that would just be a Wizard of Oz promise. And yet every time the fish take the bait. “I voted for a better future and a new president,” or “I hope the new president will keep their promises and improve life.” These comments that you can hear from voters after they have just left the polling stations always have me holding my head in my hands in disbelief.

Quite clearly these voters have absolutely no clue, no idea for what they are actually voting. They are voting for the Wizard of Oz! Sorry the Wizard of Croatia.               

The Voice of Dubrovnik


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