News 12 Jan 15

New Croatia President Celebrates with Protesting Veterans

After winning Croatia’s presidential election, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic celebrated at a protest camp in Zagreb set up by ex-soldiers who are demanding the resignation of the war veterans’ minister.

Sven Milekic
Grabar Kitarovic celebrates in the war veterans' tent.

Grabar Kitarovic, the victorious candidate of the opposition centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, went to share her unexpected triumph in the early hours of Monday morning with the protesting disabled veterans from the 1990s conflict at the tent they have set up in front of the war veterans’ ministry.

After opening the celebration with a minute of silence for all those killed in the war, followed by the Croatian national anthem, Grabar Kitarovic made a speech emphasising that she “will not forget” the veterans after coming to office.

“Nobody will underplay our defensive Homeland War [the name used in Croatia for the 1990s conflict] and call it some kind of a civil war; this I solemnly swear here tonight... I will continue where our first Croatian president, Dr. Franjo Tudjman, left off,” said Grabar Kitarovic.

“This is my first working visit; let us celebrate a little tonight, and then we will immediately go to work together for a better Croatia! For too long you have made sacrifices, I understand you; I know what you want and what you are looking for - above all, respect and the war as the foundations of Croatia,” she said.

The ex-soldiers have been protesting non-stop for more than two and a half months in front of the war veterans’ ministry in Zagreb, demanding minister Predrag Matic’s resignation as well as the passing of a constitutional law enshrining their status. The government has so far rejected their main demands.

Protest leader Djuro Glogoski congratulated Grabar Kitarovic on her win, adding that what “has been happening to us during the last two or three years is something we couldn’t imagine in 1995” after the war ended.

“Then [in the 1990s], we had to get into the defence of the Croatian people and the Croatian homeland and we could not clean up our own back yard, but now we think it is the time to clean up our yard. When you go up to the Pantovcak [presidential residence], never forget us, who remain here,” said Glogoski.

Government officials, including defeated presidential candidate Ivo Josipovic, have accused the HDZ of secretly backing the protesters to score political points and destabilise the administration.

Grabar Kitarovic narrowly beat incumbent president Josipovic, who was backed by the governing centre-left coalition, in Sunday’s polls. She won 50.74 per cent of the vote, while Josipovic won 49.26 per cent.

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