State Property Minister Goran Marić resigned on Monday in the wake of a series of reports in the media alleging his involvement in suspicious real-estate transactions.
The reports included an alleged deal with the Catholic Church in which, the now former minister, facilitated the renovation of a Franciscan monetary in Zagreb in exchange for an apartment also in the capital. The anti-corruption agency USKOK started looking into the allegations following their publication on the Index news website.
Marić claims he was forced to step down under enormous pressure exerted by forces he does not name, but are opponents of new laws passed by the government that he claims have stopped individuals from “usurping” state property. He also claims his family was being harassed in the wake of the reports.
“Being well aware of the enormous value of our state's properties and the circumstances that I have been thrust into, I am not capable of resisting the incredible attack on the dignity, peace, and integrity of my family. The harassment of my family renders all of the other reasons for my resignation completely irrelevant,” Marić said, speaking at an event in Novi Vinodolski.
Marić said the government had passed policies that ended practices that were detrimental to the state. He described these practices as the "theft" of state property. By that he means that individuals were able to acquire state owned land and properties for next to nothing, using various legal loopholes. He says the state lost nearly 1 billion kuna on business properties alone. He claims it is these laws that made him a target and eventually led to his resignation.
“I have not had a single peaceful day at work since this ministry was created. I was working under almost tempered pressure and under circumstances that made me a target,” he said.
Marić plans to return to his seat in parliament. His resignation follows that of another minister, Lovro Kuščević, who stepped down just a week ago, also under scrutiny over some suspicious real-estate deals.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenković announced there would be a broader cabinet re-shuffle following Kuščević's resignation. There has been widespread speculation that Marić’s departure was part of that plan, but the PM declined to give any details today.
"I will tell you when I decide it is time," he told reporters in Dubrovnik.
The PM is expected to discuss the reshuffle with his party's leadership later Monday or Tuesday, which means that if a formal proposal is put to lawmakers, they could be back in session later this week to confirm the new ministers.
The opposition claims the resignations of Marić and Kuščević, and perhaps more to come before the end of the week, are a sign Prime Minister Plenković's government is imploding. SDP MP Željko Jovanović describes the series of events as the "political agony" of the Pleknović government.
"He’s planning an ambitious re-shuffle, but the only thing that makes any sense is to hold early elections. This whole government should make an exit because the majority of voters do not support them and don't trust them. It is one of the reasons people are leaving Croatia every day," Jovanović said.
Most's Nikola Grmoja said the currently parliamentary majority cannot stand much longer.
"Everyone sees the ship is sinking and they are trying to save themselves. I am referring to the People's Party and minority MPs. After all, they called this government the Titanic government and then hopped on board anyway," he said.
Goran Beus Richenberg from GLAS forecasts more resignations this week, but believes the rest of the government will do whatever it takes to stay in power.
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