One of the most surprising aspects of the recent Croatian parliamentary elections held on July 5th, 2020 was the unexpected success of the Možemo! coalition of a few smaller parties leaning toward the new-left and green end of the political spectrum. Although Možemo! gained only seven mandates out of a total of 151 parliamentary seats, their success indicated that a movement based on grassroots activism and fighting for green policies, feminism, workers‘ rights and an anti-corruption agenda can be viable not only in Croatia, but also in other countries in the region such as Serbia.
One of the leaders of the Možemo! coalition who gained a large share of preferential votes is Tomislav Tomasević, who also works as a coordinator for the Institute of Political Ecology in Zagreb, our partner organization in Croatia. We caught up with him a few days after the election to talk about the causes of Možemo’s success and their further strategy.
How did the Croatian public and media react to your electoral success?
The Croatian public and media reacted very positively to the electoral success of our green-left coalition consisting of six green and left parties, including Možemo! Our coalition is definitely the biggest surprise of these parliamentary elections and there is a great sense of hope among our supporters and voters, although the new Government will be formed by HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union), a conservative party burdened by many corruption scandals. The week following the elections was so crazy in terms of media and public interest that it was actually more demanding than the last week of our electoral campaign.
Could you describe the key factors that led to this result?
It’s hard to tell - otherwise everybody would know the formula. My guess would be that we showed the voters that we are consistent in our struggles for various public and common goods over the past few decades, so they could trust that we will “walk the talk”, unlike many other politicians who changed their parties in the last Parliament - more than one-fifth of MPs did this in the last four years. Also, it was probably the very positive electoral campaign we led, which sparked some optimism in post-earthquake and post-corona Zagreb and Croatia.
Who makes up the core of your voters? Was the success of Možemo only a matter of Zagreb and other urban centers, or was your electorate more evenly distributed through the country?
According to some of the first polls, it was mostly highly-educated people who voted for our green-left coalition. Also, what is really good news is that a lot of young people voted for us, and many of them went to vote for the first time in their lives. It is not only Zagreb and urban centers where we had good results, but also some small towns and even islands. We had poorer results only in Eastern Croatia when we look at the whole country.
Do you think the election results can galvanize other, similar movements and parties in the wider region?
I certainly hope and believe this will galvanize similar movements in the wider region. The initiative “Ne davimo Beograd” is on the right track to achieve something similar in Serbia. I also hope for the success of similar initiatives in other countries of the region. Možemo! and the whole coalition have great potential for political growth on the national level, as only now do we have the resources to build serious political organizations across the country. Also, we are preparing for local elections, which are due in May next year, especially in Zagreb, where I will contest the current mayor who has been in power for the past 20 years.
Can the Možemo coalition (or the new left parties in general), in a long-term timeframe, replace the Social Democrats (SDP) or other competitors? Are the values of leftist voters still the same, or is there some change?
This will also depend on the SDP and other political actors. We have a clear vision of becoming a modern, fresh, green and left option for the 21st century. We are not very concerned or focused on what other political players are doing and how they will position themselves in terms of ideology and methodology.
Nevertheless, the elections were won by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). What are your predictions regarding the further political developments in this electoral cycle?
It will not be easy for them, and I do not expect that the new Government will survive the full term of four years. There are great challenges ahead regarding the social, economic, epidemic and environmental crises and HDZ, now with almost a single-party majority, holds full responsibility for all future decisions. We will be a fierce but also constructive opposition. This time, the “new/old” Prime Minister Plenkovic cannot hide from responsibility by blaming various factions within his own party or the other ruling coalition parties.
What kind of agenda will Možemo! focus on in Parliament? Have you already taken some steps toward that?
We will focus on the political values of social justice, ecological sustainability, deeper democracy and gender equality, on the transformation to a green, robust economy, decreasing social inequalities, and greater democracy, especially at the local level. One of the first laws we will work on will be the law on the reconstruction of Zagreb after the devastating earthquake that happened in March this year. In the beginning, we will also focus on laws related to taxation reform, workers’ rights and women’s rights.