Death of Veteran Mayor Injects New Uncertainty into Zagreb Election - Balkan Times

Death of Veteran Mayor Injects New Uncertainty into Zagreb Election

Milan Bandic was campaigning for a seventh term as Zagreb mayor when he died. Who will replace him and what awaits them?

The death of Veteran Mayor Injects New Uncertainty into Zagreb Election- Bandic’s first stint as mayor ran from 2000 and 2002, but he returned to the post in 2005 and was campaigning for a seventh term when he died of a heart attack.

Widely viewed as a populist, Bandic was the target of several investigations by anti-corruption authorities. He was detained by police in 2014 and two corruption cases reached court. He was acquitted in the first in 2018 and was still on trial for the second when he died.

Puhovski said that, without Bandic, real issues might come to the fore in the campaign for city hall, as will the left-right ideological divide between candidates.

“There is a very high possibility that [Miroslav] Skoro will emerge as a very strong candidate,” Puhovski said.

Leader of the right-wing Homeland Movement, Skoro came a strong third in Croatia’s first-round presidential election in December 2019 and is now a deputy in the national parliament.

After not answering the question of whether he would be a candidate for Zagreb mayor for days, Skoro finally announced his candidacy on Friday.

Puhovski said Skoro had an advantage over more established politicians as “a man who simply cannot be criticised for corruption because he has never been in power.”

But with Croatia’s two main parties, the ruling Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, and the Social Democrats, SDP, fielding “really pale candidates” in Zagreb city councillor Davor Filipovic and former deputy foreign minister Josko Klisovic, Puhovski said Tomasevic was the favourite to replace Bandic.

Also a former city councillor, 39 year-old Tomasevic is an opposition lawmaker in the Croatian parliament and part of the “Zagreb is OURS” green/left coalition. He is well known for his activism and opposition to Zagreb’s urban decay.

What about Bandic’s big plans?

Besides a number of graft allegations, Bandic’s six terms in office were also marred by criticism about the level of transparency in the city’s dealings and its spending on what critics said were little more than vanity projects, from fountains to monuments.

Bandic had little time for the questions of journalists and was frequently accused of rudeness in his communication with female reporters.

Meanwhile, Zagreb’s infrastructure problems mounted.

Supporters of Bandic, however, said he brought huge energy to the running of the city, walking the city’s muddy suburbs, staggering in his socks through snow to lay a wreath, driving excavators and cutting ribbons by the thousand.

After his death, two pensioner associations called for the continuation of what they said was Bandic’s sensitivity to the needs of the elderly and the poor.

But Mamic questioned whether the image was real.

“With this populist approach, Bandic pretended that he was a small ordinary man who cared about the problems of the little people, which of course was not true. But he built his entire political career on that illusion,” she said.

Whoever takes his place must grapple with the restoration of a city struck by a strong earthquake a year ago, and with promises Bandic left unfulfilled, such as the construction of a tram line to the hard-to-reach Zagreb airport and a much-anticipated cable car.

“To say that Zagreb is a neglected city is, of course, exaggerated,” said Puhovski. But, “indeed, Bandic did not fulfill even part of what he promised.”he death of veteran Zagreb mayor Milan Bandic has turned on its head a May municipal election in the Croatian capital.

Zagreb’s mayor for the best part of two decades, Bandic died suddenly on February 28 aged 65, leaving the race to run the city of roughly 800,000 people wide open.

Communications expert Ankica Mamic said that, in all previous local elections, challengers for the capital’s top post had simply listed Bandic’s mistakes and promised to fix them.

But with Bandic’s passing, “the context has changed significantly,” Mamic told BIRN.

Now the candidates have to offer a real vision for the future of the city, she said.

Political analyst Zarko Puhovski said Bandic’s death “opens up a lot of space for right-wing candidates,” potentially including folk singer and former presidential candidate Miroslav Skoro, but that left-wing opposition MP Tomislav Tomasevic was the frontrunner.

“It seems to me that Tomasevic is less strong than a few days ago, but still, he is the leading candidate,” Puhovski told BIRN.

Whoever wins, experts agree he or she faces a tough task running a city dominated for so long by Bandic, whose energetic, six-term rule over Zagreb was marred by a string of corruption scandals.

“Whoever comes in his place will find a series of holes – holes in the budget, holes in organisation,” Puhovski warned. Bandic, he said, covered over the holes “with his charm and his buzzing like a bee from flower to flower.”


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