Election Observation Report of the Elections to the House of Representatives, Republic of Croatia, 29 October 1995
On September 18, 1995, the Croatian House of Representatives was called into session and immediately presented with a new election law that included significant amendments to the existing legislation. On that day the content of the law was made public for the first time. After only a few hours of debate, the new election law was passed without change, using emergency procedures. On September 22, new elections were scheduled for Sunday, October 29, 1995, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. On September 29, 1995, the Croatian House of Representatives was dissolved. This constituted the third round of multi-party elections since 1990, when the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) led by President Franjo Tudjman, gained the majority in both houses of the Parliament for the first time.
Pre-election monitors raised doubts about the nature of the election changes and the swift pace with which they were ushered in. Concern has also been raised as to the lack 0 f discussion in the passage of the election law changes. An article by Patrick Moore of the OMRJ Daily Digest stated that the "new electoral law ... favors the HDZ by allowing for only 28 deputies to be elected on a district basis, as opposed to at-large candidacies on party lists."In addition, he stated that "the number of seats reserved for the Serbian minority has been reduced, and 12 deputies will be elected at-large by Croatians abroad in what is seen as an attempt by the HDZ to obtain at least a two thirds majority in the Sabor." By gaining a three-fourths majority President Tudjman could, at will, change the Constitution of Croatia.
An opponent to the HDZ was a coalition of seven smaller parties that reached an agreement to jointly field candidates for the "special list" (a list of candidates for 28 single-member districts). However, the main opposition to the HDZ remained the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS). Also of significance is the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) -- a traditionally right wing group that has moved to a more moderate right-of-center position.
Croatian citizens outnumber any other ethnic group in Croatia. Their share of the population' has been estimated at 4.7 million and consists of approximately 75% of the population. The, second largest ethnic group consists of Serbs that constitute 12% of the country's population. Local minorities also exist in Croatia and include Muslims, Slovenians, Italians, and Czechs.
Although the prior election law guaranteed proportional representation of national and ethnic minorities that exceed 8% of the population in Croatia, the Constitutional Act on Non-Implementation of Some Regulations of the Constitutional Act on Human and Minorities’ Rights in Croatia of 1995 contains a clause which overrides this process and reduces from 13 to 3 the number of seats guaranteed to the Serbian minority.
In spite of concerns involving the difficult political environment of Croatia with regard to the Bosnian conflict and their effect on the 1995 Parliamentary elections of the Republic of Croatia, IFES representative Cathy Salay focused on the technical aspects of the electoral process. Through information and materials gathered at meetings during the observation mission, it was anticipated that the voting process would represent an opportunity for the Croatian voting population to express their will in a free and fair manner. The following report is a representation of the particular experience of the IFES representative.