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Trust in politics - once lost, can it be regained?

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Do I trust an old established political party that has lost its way but says that it has reformed or do I trust and give my vote to a new and and inexperienced political party?

Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, forever to repair.
If it is lost it is not easily found and if it is found its never the same again.
- Unknown


Trust is very important in politics. Maybe more important than anything else. When voters make their decision about who to vote for, I think they go through this basic three step decision making process. My WAG (wild assed guess) is that the ratio might be 3:1:2 - with trust being the most important factor.



Croatia is today under the leadership of a socialist (SDP led coalition) parliament and a socialist president. The present socialist government was elected to oust a previous center-right, HDZ, government which was corrupt and mismanaged the nation and economy. Voter sentiment was essentially that they were not voting for the socialist coalition because they liked them but that they were voting against the corruption and incompetence of the HDZ


In Croatia, as a Conservative, I have two options:

A. The HDZ: the 'traditional" party of the right because they are the party of Franjo Tudman, the first president of Croatia and the party that helped create an independent Croatia, but has severely damaged brand equity. The HDZ claims that it has reformed and is working to rejuvenate trust in the HDZ party

B. The Alliance: a new coalition on the right, with potential but no brand equity. The objective of the Alliance is to be more conservative and more honest than the corrupted HDZ. The Alliance hopes to get the support of conservatives that have lost faith in the HDZ and to stimulate voting from the 40% of the people that do not vote because they feel none of the parties represent them.

The HDZ has credibility because they have support from many sectors of the population, they have infrastructure and they have some ideas that are worthy of consideration - but they are also the party of bad privatizations, mismanagement and corruption. The soul of the HDZ was brilliantly encapsulated in a summary of, HDZ president, Tomislav Karamarko's comments;

"We plundered and stole, but we are still
better than the SDP because we love Croatia"


The Alliance on the other hand has no brand damage, has potential, but they have little credibility because have never been in power and have no experience in governing. They have organizational and internal coalition strategic planning problems they can't seem to overcome which make us wonder if they can't solve their party problems how will they fix the national problems.


What the HDZ is doing right

Partnering with credibility: The HDZ leadership knows that the HDZ still has significant credibility issues and so they have:

1. partnered with the German CDU, a party with a lot of credibility. Klaus Peter Willsch of the CDU came to the HDZ investment conference and gave advice to the HDZ.
2. partnered with the HSP-As, a smaller but more conservative party, led by the very popular Ruža Tomašić.

The HDZ increases their credibility by being associated with people that have credibility. HDZ increases its credibility by taking advice from people outside of the party with credibility.

Improving Communications: The HDZ appears to have contracted the services of an American campaign consultancy to help them improve their communications strategy and tactics. Communications is about selling ideas and inspiring hope and the HDZ appears to be improving in that area - even though Tomislav Karamarko is a totally uninspiring and uncharismatic speaker.

Researched the Market: Politicians need to sell what the people want to buy. This is logical if you consider that the role of politicians is to represent the will of the people in parliament. The HDZ is clearly focussing on a mass market message while the Alliance is taking a more niche strategy approach.

Who is speaking about what:

HDZ = economy, investment, jobs, how to manage government
Alliance = lustration, Serbian war crimes, cyrillic in Vukovar and family values


They are saying all the right things about party reform, their vision for reform of government and economic policies. I want to believe in them, but there is a little voice in me that keeps nagging me and asking, "Can you really trust them or should I look to the new Alliance for Croatia?" After all, Ivo Sanader, the HDZ prime minister of Croatia from 2003 to 2009, was very charismatic and said the right things but when in power messed up in a significant way

So who best represents my political needs and desires, who do I support?

A. A party that I hope has reformed and lead for the common good
B. A party that I hope will be cable of leading

How do I know who to trust?
I know who is capable to improve my standard of living - but not who to trust.

Should I believe in the HDZ that they have changed their heart and will do the right things when they are in government? Or are they just saying the right things so that they can get back into government to run the country they love, the country they love to plunder for personal benefit.

How does a political party prove quickly that they are again trustworthy?


The Canadian Experience

In Canada we had a similar experience to what is happening in Croatia. In the mid 1980s the Progressive Conservative party under the leadership of Brian Mulroney (married to Milica "Mila" Pivnički) suffered a series of scandals and lost the trust of the people. The Liberals gained popularity and became majority government.

Conservatives in Alberta were particularly unhappy with the PC party and so they created a new grass roots political party called The Reform Party led by Preston Manning. Reform slowly gain popularity and eventually took over the PC Party through a process that looked similar to a reverse-takeover in business.

The Conservative brand regained credibility and strength because of the clear "change in mangaement".


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Željko Zidarić

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