The Renew Europe Group in the European Committee of the Regions (Renew Europe CoR) has published a new interview with Mayor Dario Hrebak, who was re-elected Mayor of Bjelovar (Croatia) in the first round in the recent local elections. In this interview, Hrebak shares the secret of his success and talks about the lessons learned.
Citizens were not voting according to ideology, but rather for profound change or status quo of the society – what is your take on it, especially as you were convincingly re-elected in Bjelovar for another term as Mayor during the first round?
The citizens of Bjelovar confirmed that we are going in the right direction. It can be seen from what we have been doing for the last four years. I expected a victory, but the high 67% in the first round was above all expectations. It was very emotional for me, realising that people really appreciate our work. These elections showed that we are valued by people from across different parties: that is a big deal. Elections are festivals of democracy, but also a civic duty. Everyone has the right to vote for whomever they want, according to their own beliefs. These elections have shown what citizens want and think, and that is change. It is a time for some new, young people who have broader views of the world and politics in general. That is just fine. Times are changing, worldviews are not the same as 10 or more years ago, technology has advanced, many things are different and therefore it would be illogical if citizens did not notice it and did not want to keep up with the times. We can say that this is also a generational shift that must happen someday.
Several candidates left their political establishments prior to the elections and ran either as independent or as part of newly created platforms, such as Mozemo in Zagreb or Centar in Split, a strategy that proved successful for most of them. Also, according to this, your position stands out, you are the President of HSLS, a long standing liberal party in Croatia – what is your secret for success?
In politics, you can see all kind of things, and this is not only the case in Croatia, but in the whole world. Certain colleagues have probably concluded that the previous parties are a burden to them and that it will be easier for citizens to support them if they acted alone, behind their name and surname, and not behind a party. All this is legitimate, especially if they contribute to the improvement of their region and Croatia in general. But on the other hand, we can also talk about the fact that such a move is also a question of credibility. But there are citizens to judge about it. I am a liberal by choice and I do not deviate from my views. By nature, I am persistent, and I believe that everything is possible if you want it. This can be seen in the example of Bjelovar, where, I will boldly say, we have done a lot in four years, something that no one has even thought to touch in the last 30 years or more, and we will continue in that direction. I have been in politics for a long time and from the first day was in HSLS. I really believe in change, in a dignified life of citizens in the 21st century, and the fact that I became the president of my party at the national level and won a second term as mayor in Bjelovar, only confirms my credibility and efforts to meet the set goals. In my opinion, this is the only recipe for success, there are no big secrets, but only work and great effort, which the citizens eventually recognise. I am ready for talks, cooperation, I communicate a lot with people, and I think that this is one big link in the chain that every politician should emphasize if he wants to work well, for the benefit of those who gave him their trust in the elections.
Many analysts draw a line of comparison between the decline of trust in traditional parties throughout Europe and the rise (in particular on local level) for the Green parties. How do you see this transformation of the political landscape get reflected on national level in the future?
People are obviously disappointed and crave for something new, something fresh. The situation is similar everywhere in Europe, known faces for years and little change. Numerous activists and “green” parties found their way there, offering something different, and people, it seems, in a strong desire for change, simply chose those who are louder and just different from the others. This also happened in Zagreb in the election for Mayor. What will happen and how much it will be reflected at the national level, remains to be seen. These elections have given tailwind to “the different ones” who now are able to do something. The question is how much will they use the favourable wind and whether it will justify the citizens’ trust who will, after four years, certainly reward them in the new elections if they deserve it.
Photo credit: Renew Europe CoR