Croatian Referendum

I love referendums. They are democracy flexing its muscle which is a great sign of democratic health. So looking at Croatia’s December 1st referendum on traditional marriage, one would hope that all is well in the land of democracy. However, given the behavior of the ruling government in the lead-up to the referendum, this is certainly not the case.

The Croatian government, comprised of several good ol’ boys and gals with
ties from the glory days of Communist Yugoslavia, has been hell-bent on interfering with this referendum from day one. Firstly, in the spring when public groups collected double the amount of signatures required for a petition seeking referendum, the Croatian government immediately sought to have the signature benchmark raised. Foreign Affairs Minister Pusic and Deputy Prime Minister Stazic even declared that the referendum results were not binding. Perhaps Ministers Pusic and Stazic could predict the outcome of such a referendum in a country which is over 90% Catholic . So Ms. Pusic and Mr. Stazic, would you ignore the result of a democratic process and proceed with your own agenda? So much for democracy!

CroatiaGayMarriageBanOpponentsThen came the summer months, where Government Ministers and officials marched with relatively small numbers of gay supporters through the streets of Croatian cities, clearly showing where they stood on this issue. This was followed by the autumn where pro-family groups turned up the referendum campaign heat and the President Josipovic responded by expressing openly his doubts “whether we need such a referendum. I will go to the referendum and vote against”. The Minister of Social Politics and Youth, Milanka Opacic, said the referendum “is unnecessary and we will spend almost one month’s worth of social welfare payments on it”. The Prime Minister, Zoran Milanovic said: “…I hope this is the first and the last time such a referendum will be called …until then I hope we will bring changes …I will attend and vote against.” For a government official to openly express- and interfere- with a democratic process should set alarm bells ringing in the electorate and the EU, of which Croatia is a member.

CroatiaGayMarriageBan2 So here’s my gripe. How dare a democratically elected government sneer at a democratic process which was initiated by the people, for the people. How dare democracy be used as a tool when convenient, and thrown to the wayside obstructive to one’s own agenda. While I appreciate this government has their own socialist agenda to purse, perhaps they ought to try another country where oppression and socialism reign. Don’t push your agenda on Croatia, a country which shed so much blood twenty years ago to gain independence. Take your communist tendency and live in North Korea; I hear it is a very welcoming place over there.

The result to the referendum question “Are you for the inclusion into the Constitution the provision that marriage is a union between a man and a woman?” Nearly 66% of voters circled “Yes” and 34% circled “No”. The turnout was nearly 38%. (Comparatively, voter turnout for the referendum to join the EU was 43.51%). Regardless of which side of the marriage argument you stand, collectively we can say that democracy process prevailed.

I hope Croatians will respond in kind to this government’s recent behavior, at the next parliamentary elections, which can’t come soon enough for me. I’ve just about had it with this group of political elites.