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News 27 Oct 16

Croatia MP Becomes Region's Anti-Establishment Star

After a video in which he slated the US, NATO and the EU swept the social media in the region, Croatian anti-establishment MP Ivan Pernar claims 'people are hungry for the truth'.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb

With over a 1.5 million views of the video of his speech, newly elected Croatian MP Ivan Pernar has become a star for anti-establishment activists around the Balkan region.

Pernar, 31, a first-time MP from the opposition anti-establishment Living Wall – a party born out of a movement formed to stop seizures of homes – told BIRN that his appearance is not the primary cause for the popularity of the video, but “hunger among people for the truth”.

The video was made by another young regional anti-establishment star, Boris Malagurski from Serbia, who is widely known for his film "Weight of Chains", in which he tackled the issues of NATO intervention in Yugoslavia and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

Malagurski made the video of Pernar’s speech in Croatia's parliament last week – when the new centre-right government was voted in – and promoted it on Facebook both in Serbian and English.

In an inflammatory speech in parliament, Pernar questioned the benefits to Croatia of joining the EU, and harshly criticised Croatia’s position in NATO, which he accused of crimes in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s not due to my performance but because people are hungry for the truth. They are sick of looking at how killers of children are shown as humanitarians. Those who wage wars are shown as peacemakers; those who rob the whole world are shown as saviours,” he told BIRN.

Everyone can see what “particular country he has in mind, which is waging illegal wars”, he added, referring to the US.

“We all remember the promises that civilians would be saved in Libya and we all now know that numerous civilians were killed in the NATO intervention in that country,” Pernar emphasised, also mentioning the suffering in Iraq.

During the past two weeks, his attacks on Croatia's new centre-right government have won much attention, establishing Living Wall as perhaps the main opposition force in the country, despite having only four of the 151 seats in parliament.

“Living Wall is the only existing opposition [in parliament]; there is no other opposition. All the others are for this neo-liberal system,” Pernar said.

Asked if he will get tired and cut his participation in parliament – as some MPs suggest he will – Pernar said those who make this claim “don’t know him very well”.

Pernar is a co-president of the Living Wall, second to the party leader Ivan Vilibor Sincic. Along with some other smaller parties, Living Wall’s coalition won eight seats in total with their anti-establishment rhetoric, and by raising the issues of indebtedness among ordinary citizens.

After one of its co-presidents, Hrvoje Runtic, accused the party of corruption and joined the junior government party, the Bridge of the Independent Lists, MOST, some experts predicted this would damage the party’s popularity. But Pernar’s recent speeches and activity in parliament suggest the party’s profile is growing.

Although he first made his presence felt in student protests back in 2009, he became better known as an informal leader of protests against the centre-right Croatian Democratic Union-led government in 2011. Leading the protests for days, he was arrested on several occasions.

The same year, he was a founder of the Alliance for Change, a party that later transformed itself into Living Wall. This earned its reputation by defying the police when they enforced evictions of people from their homes, as a result of which Pernar was arrested a few times.

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