>Croatian ‘greys’ set for strong election result?

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As the Croatian elections approach, the government – the Javno website reports – quickly pays off 2.037 billion kuna owed to earmarked for the settling of debts to 462,888 members of the pensioners’ fund – the proceeds of privatizing the the T-TH telecoms company. Presumably this is intended to shore up the vote of the ruling HDZ and perhaps dish the Croatian Pensioners’ Party (HSU). HSU polls suggest may again cross the 5 per cent hurdle needed to enter parliament and could even finish third, gaining 7-8% of the vote 8-10 seats in the 150 member legislature, although as the HSU has been quite politically close to HDZ in the past this might, in fact, prove counterproductive. It may send a signal that a strong ‘grey’ party enables pensioners to gain what the political system would otherwise deny them. The HSU claims 47,000 members and – like Die Grauen in Germany – also have a youth section apparently comprising some 20% of this membership.

Elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia , Euro2day notes quoting the FT, Slovenia’s DESUS – European’s most succesful ‘grey’ party – seemed unafraid of elections, having backed the (successful) rival presidential candidate to that nominated by centre-right coalition of which it is a member. It was said they might may not back the government in a vote of confidence, but in fact the DESUS leadership unanimously opted to do so. A huge (by Slovene standards) recent demonstation of up to 70, 000 trade unionist demanding higher wages and better social standards suggests a social climate in theiry favourable to DESUS, which perhaps explains why it might be tempted to become a semi-detached member of the coalition. DESUS and HSU recently held a meeting in Zagreb passing on good wishes to each other, exchanging experiences and unveiling (long-running) plans for a congress of European pensioners’ parties to be held in Ljubljana.

My own paper trying to begin to make sense of Europe’s small pensioners’ parties now appears on the web on the site of the conference on minor parties I am going to in Birmingham next week: an overview of what’s out there and some hypotheses – derived from a large-ish literature about party formation – about why they are relatively successful in places like Croatia, Slovenia, Holland and Israel. Unfortunately, I have yet to come up with decent analytical strategy to unpick a mass morass of possibly relevant factors, so it is – as one of my colleagues kindly put it – still a piece of ‘exploratory political science’.

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