The day when democracy was overrun in Croatia

No, this is not about Radimir Čačić, the decision of the Hungarian court on the conditional sentence for the traffic accident in which two persons were killed, or about the probable (and expected) decision of the Croatian Prime Minister who will, despite all the political implications (since only the court can deal with legal ones) keep Radimir Čačić as his first vice president in the Croatian government. This was only a decorative curtain on the stage of events and the media used it (the government as well) to cover and divert the attention from another decision. This one with much broader and far-reaching consequences for Croatia than the fact whether Čačić will remain in the government or not.

Croatian Sabor decided on Friday, in the first reading, on the so called Representation Act (representation of the unions in collective bargaining). However, the act is not what the name says. It, as a matter of fact, is used to change the Croatian Labour Law, primarily the part speaking about the protracted application of legal rules in cases when agreed duration of the collective agreement has run out. As we still remember that from June 9th to June 23rd 2010 exactly 717 149 of the adult Croatian citizens signed the petition asking for the referendum on the topic of prolonged application of the legal rules and contents of the collective agreements, we feel free to say that the ruling majority in the Croatian Sabor (the Kukuriku Coalition) has literally overrun these 717.149 citizens of Croatia on the forgotten road to democracy. Zoran Milanović, in the opposition at the time, as well as some of his distinguished party associates, also signed the petition calling for a referendum. And changed their minds in the meantime.

What is this precisely about? They say „we have the best laws, they have been harmonised with the EU“, etc. However, the legal acts to be applied are full of loop holes, enabling the government (regardless of its orientation- conservative or neo-liberal) to avoid fulfilling the will of the citizens of this country. As is quite obvious, after 717 149 signatures were collected, the Croatian Sabor was obliged to organise a referendum on the topic. However, (and there is always a „however“ or „but“), the law does not state a time limit in which the Sabor is obliged to organise the (for example three or six months from the day the sufficient number of signatures have been presented, meaning 10 percent of all the registered voters).

By the way, exactly 15.95% of all the voters signed for the referendum in 2010, and the signatures were collected in a two-week campaign, as provided by the law. The Croatian Sabor, with Jadranka Kosor as the prime minister, did not want to organise the referendum on the topic and asked for the opinion of the Constitutional Court whether Sabor was obliged to organise the referendum, since the Government led by Jadranka Kosor withdraw the act from procedure on its session of September 3rd 2010. Interesting to note, the Constitutional Court (which usually needs months or even years to bring some rather simple decisions, decided in a light-speed procedure, on October the 20th already (, that the referendum was not necessary any more (or, as the words of the decision go – the prerequisites ceased to exist), as the Act was withdrawn from the procedure, and there was no point in organising the referendum. Additionally, the Constitutional Court also decided that no act should be put into the parliamentary procedure within a year from the date of the decision, which would in any manner include regulations changing the rules on protracted application of the regulations dealing with the protracted application of collective agreements.

June 29th 2012 was yesterday. A year and a half has passed since the Constitutional Court explicitly forbade sending an act into the parliamentary procedure dealing with changing the rules of protracted application. Jadranka Kosor is not a prime minister any more, Zoran Milanović is. The same Zoran Milanović who signed the petition when the unions asked for the referendum two years ago. The will of the citizens is not so important any more. As there is no regulation defining the time limit for organising the referendum in case when (meaning 10%) has asked for a referendum, the parliamentary majority took the liberty to overrun (not by their cars but by their raised hands in our parliament) the will of 717.149 Croatian voters.

Croatian Labour Party, wishing to avoid such a disgusting underestimating and circumventing the will of our citizens, suggested adopting an act in Sabor ( which proposed to organise a referendum prior to the second reading, with the following question: “Do you support keeping the existing legal regulations on the protracted application of the rules contained in the collective agreements and calling off the collective agreements?“. Croatian Labour Party asked for the vote on this act in Sabor.

In proposing the act we had in mind the Article 87 of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, which says that Sabor may call a referendum on changing the Constitution, any bill or other issue falling into its competence, while the additional argument for calling the referendum were 717 149 signatures of the voters who asked for the referendum two years before.

For the first time since Croatian independence, enough signatures of the voters were collected in 2010 to call for a referendum. For the first time since Croatian independence, Sabot voted on the call for a referendum asked by Croatian citizens. For the first time since Croatian independence representatives voted on such an issue. And for the first time since the Croatian independence, ruling majority (Kukuriku coalition) voted against the referendum called for by 15.95% of the Croatian voters, while HDZ was abstented. Kukuriku coalition referred in refusing the act on the clause 2 of the Constitutional Court from October 20th 2011. However, Clause 2 of the Court decision is nothing but a legal loop in which the Constitutional Court, instead of protecting the Constitution, bows to the wishing of the ruling majority and the government. We do not think the Court was right when, in clause 2, it decided that the bill cannot be sent into the parliamentary procedure for at least a year from the day of the Court decision. We base this opinion on the Article 3, paragraph 4 and Article 8, paragraph 4 of the Law on Referendum, which say that the decision confirmed by a referendum, called for by the will of the citizens, can only be changed through a new referendum, as opposed to the referendum called for by Sabor, the decision of which is binding for a year only (except when the case concerns joining and exiting the EU). In other words, if a referendum was organised in 2010, based on the 717 149 signatures collected, and majority of the voters decided to keep the protracted application of the rules, this decision would have been permanently binding. If Kukuriku coalition wished to change it they would have had to call for a new referendum, and could not have done it through its majority in Sabor.

In other words, clearly and simply, Kukuriku coalition overrun in Sabor yesterday 717 149 of adult Croatia
n citizens. Quite an accomplishment. (Translated by Nikola Vuljanić)

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