Jelena Lovric reports on the internal political situation among the Bosnian Croats for the "AIM" news pool on August 6, 1998.
Since the moment that the HDZ of Bosnia and Herzegovina broke down in two, Croatian media are full of reports, in which former party colleagues and now bitter enemies trip each other. The verbal war between BiH HDZ, headed by Ante Jelavic, and the New Croatian Initiative, newly formed party of Kresimir Zubak, has grown into a bitter war of secret documents, intelligence means and compromising information.
But more than this political folklore, full of KOS and UDBA (former SFRY intelligence agencies) agents, and Yugo - supporters (rethorics used quite often in Croatia too during election time), the Croatian public is interested in information about financial and criminal connections of Zagreb and Herzegovina. With that, it seems Jelavic has a prominent role. First came the information that, supposedly, Croatia is funneling 32 million DEM into the HVO logistics center in Grude. Supposedly, the funds are used to aid Croatian officers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, so that they each receive 2500 DEM per month for a higher level officer, down to 1000 DEM given to minister's drivers. In a way, Jelavic confirmed this information. In an interview he stated that Croatia is paying those hurt by the war and members of the HVO. But, he sees nothing strange in this, on the contrary, he expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the military men in Herzegovina receive half as much as those in Croatia.
After that, a weekly in Zagreb published a document from which it turns out that the Herzeg-Bosnia ministry of defence participated in automobile smuggling. According to this document, since Spring of 1992, until the Summer of 1994, 239 vehicles were bought on the black market for the use by ministries of Herzeg - Bosnia and Croatia. Some fifty vehicles ended up in Zagreb, and supposedly two BMW's were presented as a gift to President Tudjman's office. The document concerning the stolen automobiles was signed by Jelavic. It turns out from what was published that crime in Herzegovina, something that the international community has been indicating for a while now, was not a by-product of the war, nor its unwanted effect, but an organized activity of the regime.
Thinking that it was Zubak who gave this documents to the media, his former party colleague Vladimir Soljic, came out with the statement that he is not the one to criticize since, as he stated, his brother bought arms in a similar manner. Even though Zubak denied this information, it is interesting to see the logic of one of the key HDZ people, who sees no difference between the smuggling of arms used for defence and smuggling of automobiles. Again, Jelavic had a quick tongue. He confirmed , without much uneasiness, that automobiles were confiscated in Croatia, mainly from Bosniaks, and then transferred to Herzegovina to be used by the HVO.
In this series of mutual accusation it should be said that a daily paper published unpleasant information about how much will cost the HDZ electoral campaign. Supposedly, this party will spend more than two million DEM for pre-electoral activities, excluding the costs of TV ads. The breakdown of costs is quite interesting. For example, only the costs of making 500 jumbo posters of Ante Jelavic will be more than hundred thousand DEM, and it is envisaged to spend more than 50 thousand DEM for the clothing of candidates. The published data show that enormous waste of money is involved, but also open the question as to where does a party in a war ravaged Bosnia and Herzegovina find this kind of money.
Piling accusation upon accusation, HDZ dirty laundry is speedily arriving to the public scene. Although the majority of the stuff that the renegades made public has been known from before, former gossip and speculations became plausible. It is not the same thing when it is the opposition speaking about the intention to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina or smuggling of automobiles, as when it is the guts of the HDZ speaking about it The published information blemishes both sides, since both had their arms full of dirty deals. The relief factor for Zubak's side is that now, when it is distancing itself from this type of politics, supposedly sobered up, it entered the adventure of creating a new party. Those that remain with HDZ do not have that.
This raging battle between HDZ and NHI, that is, between Jelavic and Zubak, shows that the competition for the positions among Bosnian Croats is quite unpredictable. There are opinions that the competition for the Croat member of the Bosnian Presidency is greatest, or the only one that really represents an open question at the forthcoming Bosnian elections.
But whatever the election results turn out to be, the days of the HDZ in Bosnia seem to be passing by. Even if it wins again, nothing is going to be the same for this party. The split may not change the HDZ (it is seen in Croatia that the ruling party does not know how to change), but its position will. It will not be the only representative of Croats in Bosnia anymore, it will have to share the power. There are speculations in Zagreb that the Croatian president is playing both cards and that he will make a final decision based on the election results. It is certain that Jelavic is supported in Croatia only by the right wing of the HDZ, while Zubak has the support of the moderate wing and the opposition.
So, internal Croatian conflicts are lead in Bosnia, even a war between strongly opposed factions of the ruling party.
Source: "AIM" news pool, August 16, 1998