Croatian Government Woos Right-Wingers with War Symbolism

Why has the ruling Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, that has run the country for 20 of these 28 years, waited so long to promote Vukovar Remembrance Day, a de-facto date of national suffering, to a national holiday?

The reason is simple: the move serves to appeal to right-wing sentiments outside and inside the HDZ ahead of several elections that are due to be held in the year to come - presidential elections, general elections and the HDZ's internal party polls.

To shield itself from growing attacks from right-wingers for forming a coalition with the political representatives of Croatian Serbs and with liberals, the HDZ pulls out its ace in the hole - the suffering of Vukovar.

The idea for the new memorial date was born out of a working group for a law that would promote Vukovar into "a place of special piety", an idea promoted by veterans' groups who opposed the installation of official plaques in Cyrillic as well as Latin script on public institutions in the town in 2013.

Now, six years late, some of these associations of war veterans and members of their families are part of the working group and have demanded the upgrading of Vukovar Remembrance Day. The process was worked out behind closed doors by War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved, often seen as one of the more conservative members of the government, and a war veteran himself.

Conveniently, the announcement comes just two months before the presidential elections, at which incumbent President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic is the HDZ's candidate. It also comes some seven or eight months before the internal party elections and 11 months before the general elections.

Besides mobilising right-wing voters and therefore helping HDZ to cruise towards victory in the elections, the move...

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