21:49 / 23.02.2022.

Author: Katja Miličić

Horvat corruption affair continues to dominate political discourse

MPs trade barbs over corruption allegations

MPs trade barbs over corruption allegations

Foto: Dnevnik / HRT

The latest corruption scandal to shake-up Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's government continues to dominate Croatia's political discourse as the PM searches for a replacement for Darko Horvat, the former construction minister who resigned after being arrested on suspicion that he handed out illegal subsidies.

The HDZ has sent a clear message that their majority in parliament is stable and that there will be no snap election. "Our government will continue doing its job," the party said in a Facebook post published on Wednesday. Prime Minister Plenković met with coalition partners on Tuesday to address how to proceed following the latest developments.

"The conclusion of the meeting between the coalition partners is that the government and the ruling majority are stable and that the Prime Minister has full backing to choose a candidate," Minister of Sea, Transport, and Infrastructure, Oleg Butković, told reporters on Wednesday.

The government is still discussing who will replace Horvat, while the former minister sits behind bars pending the outcome of the investigation.

The corruption scandal was the focus of debate in the Sabor on Wednesday. The opposition, hammering on the message of rampant corruption in the government, continued to insist on a snap election. Some called on the HDZ's coalition partners to act in the interest of the country. 

"The sickness that your country is suffering from is called corruption and it metastasized ages ago. Furthermore, it is untreatable and we hope that soon it will be terminal," said Ivana Kekin from the Green-Leftist Bloc.

"It seems the HDZ has finally realized that being a minister today buys you a ticket to jail tomorrow,” said Marija Selak Raspudić of Most.

SDP leader Peđa Grbin urged the HDZ’s coalition partners to consider what they were supporting.

"The government's coalition partners need to decide if they are willing to save the HDZ or if they are willing to save Croatia,” Grbin said.

Meanwhile, in a case related but separate from the Horvat matter, the anti-corruption agency USKOK has indicted former State Secretary and Knin Mayor Josipa Rimac and former EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac on corruption charges. Both women were prominent members of the HDZ. They have since been ejected from the party.  Another 25 individuals, including ministry employees and district-level officials, are also named in the indictment. This case revolves mainly around the allocation of illegal subsidies but also involves illegal hiring and influence peddling. At least 10 of the accused have cut plea deals with prosecutors.

Rimac was arrested in May of 2020. However, the biggest legal challenge she faces, an indictment on charges of influence peddling and bribery related to a wind farm near Knin, will be filed soon as a separate case.

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