The role of the Opposition is to provide an alternative

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Note: My loyalty is to the well-being and common good of the Croatian people and not to any single politician or political party. I support ideals and I support parties that support those ideals. Politicians and parties are prone to working for self-interest rather than the common good. Being critical of a political party is a form of "tough-love" that can hopefully improve the party. Getting tough-love is better than getting yes-man support.

  • Commitments create hope
  • Hopes fulfilled create trust

Hope needs a plan.
The people want more participation.

Telling me you have a great plan is not enough.
You need to show me the plan.
... because, quite honestly, I don't trust you.

You want me to trust you? Show me your plan.

A plan is a formalized set of steps taken to move towards an objective / vision. A plan without a vision is aimless and a vision without a plan is pointless. A political party without a vision is irrelevant because it stands for nothing.

Tomislav Karamarko, leader of the HDZ, proclaims the HDZ has a quality "economic plan". He made the statement here in Norval Canada and repeated the statement on Croatian TV show Bujica - (see 52:00 minute mark, in Croatian). Translated and summarized statement by Tomislav Karamarko,

“15 days ago I received a draft plan, in 14 chapters. It is locked up in my office. Only I have it. At the end of June our friends from Bavaria will come and they will work with our experts on that plan.”

I have three problems with this secret plan.
  1. Why is the plan secret?
  2. How did you do your job over the last 3.5 years if the plan is being created now?
  3. Why isn't the Diaspora more actively involved in plan development?

I also have some ideas you can steal - I hope you steal.

Note: While I speak about the HDZ, the largest party on the "right", the main Opposition party in Sabor, my criticisms apply equally to every single other party on the right. None of them have a well defined plan (or vision) based on the higher standards that I am used to here in Canada.

Problem #1 What is the Vision? Why is it a secret?

I have asked a few people and they all give me the same answer - "So that the socialists do not steal the plan." I find this statement rather confusing. There is no logic in this statement. Why would socialist political parties want to steal the program that was developed by proponents of a "social market economy" replicating successful aspects of Germany's model. HDZ friends in Germany are the CDU, part of the European People's Party which is center-right.

Socialists like the SDP, center-left members of the Party of European Socialists WILL NOT steal your plan. if they steal your plan then they stop being socialists. That is like saying that in the USA the Democrats will steal a Republican economic program. That just ain't gonna happen.

In Canada we will have our Parliamentary election on October 19, 2015. Each party has their campaign promises, vision and program available. The Liberals will not steal anything from the Conservatives and the Conservatives will not steal anything from the New Democrat Party.

Conservative Party of Canada
Liberal Party of Canada
New Democratic Party + Childcare

Compare election promises at Decision Canada

Problem #2 How did you fulfill your responsibilities as the Opposition in Sabor without a plan?

The most important role of the Opposition is to provide an alternative. The goal should not be to tell the people the government is bad, but that I, the Opposition, am better.

How did you do your job of providing alternatives if you had no plan? A political program of which the economic plan is a part of should exist at all times. The plan is not static but evolves over time to reflect the needs at that point in time. The plan is based on the

There is a draft plan that will be finalized later this month at the end - NEAR THE END OF THIS SABOR MANDATE. If the HDZ had no plan during the last 3.5 years how did they perform their duties as the Opposition Party in the Sabor (Parliament)? If there was no plan, there was no alternative and without providing an alternative then the HDZ was not performing its parliamentary responsibilities.

I keep asking the question "Where was the HDZ during the creation of the utterly repulsive expropriation laws that destroy property rights in Croatia?" Where was their alternative as well as criticism?"

The problem in Croatian politics and political parties is that people do not discuss ideas.

"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Think about this:

  • How do you criticize the government allocation of funds if you have no budget plan of your own against which to benchmark?
  • How do you provide arguments against proposed legislation or amendments to improve legislation if you have not vision towards which you are working?

Role of the Opposition

In a Parliamentary democracy the minority accepts the right of the majority to make decisions, but the minority has a right to be heard. The minority (the opposition) has a right to dissent from these decisions and to promote alternative policies.

The role of the Opposition is not to just criticize the government, in this case the SDP, put to promote vigorous debate to ensure a wider perspective, ensure accountability by government and to PROVIDE AN ALTERNATIVE - a better alternative. The Opposition is an "alternative government" that the people can choose to make the government in the next election.

... the opposition should so conduct itself in Parliament as to persuade the people of the country that it could be an improvement on the government of the day. No one will deny that our system works best when there is a change of government at reasonable intervals.
- Stanley Knowles, "The Role of the Opposition in Parliament," Address to the Empire Club of Canada, 21 March 1957.

More detail on the role of the Opposition from former Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker;

If Parliament is to be preserved as a living institution His Majesty's Loyal Opposition must fearlessly perform its functions. When it properly discharges them the preservation of our freedom is assured. The reading of history proves that freedom always dies when criticism ends. It upholds and maintains the rights of minorities against majorities. It must be vigilant against oppression and unjust invasions by the Cabinet of the rights of the people. It should supervise all expenditures and prevent over expenditure by exposing to the light of public opinion wasteful expenditures or worse. It finds fault; it suggests amendments; it asks questions and elicits information; it arouses, educates and molds public opinion by voice and vote. It must scrutinize every action by the government and in doing so prevents the short-cuts through democratic procedure that governments like to make.
- Hon. John G. Diefenbaker, "The Role of the Opposition in Parliament,"
Address to the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, 27 October 1949.

Problem #3 You want me to invest, but I don't have a say

Before people buy-in, they need to pitch-in

In Norval Karamarko said that HDZ wants to rebuild bridges and have the Diaspora more involved in Croatia. Where was the Diaspora stakeholder involvement and analysis in this plan development?

My last problem with this economic plan, created with the help of Germans and Slovaks did not include people from the Croatian Diaspora. Tomislav Karamarko wants the Croatian Diaspora to return to invest in Croatia, to create businesses and employ people but he has not asked us about the problems we face and how we would like to see them solved.

What you, the HDZ, are telling us is that we are the children and that you and the other adults will make the decisions about what is best for us. You will then tell us what is best for us and we will do what we are told. In effect, the HDZ is operating like a command and control "Party" with a high power distance between the Party and the people.

That is not the relationship we want with our government. We want a more respectful and participatory relationship with our government.

Relevance to the election campaign

You do not teach voters anything during the election campaign. Anything that requires reason should be done before the election campaign because the election campaign is all about emotion. You do not introduce a 200 page economic plan to the people during the election campaign.

This is anywhere from 5 to 7 months before the Parliamentary election. You should already be talking about your plan. Telling people what your commitments are. Have the debate about technical merits now and not during the campaign.

If I was leader of the HDZ

The commitments I would make NOW.
(Mr. Karamarko, feel free to steal these ideas!)

1. We want a new politics based on capability and trust. Many people are calling for lustration, but those days are long gone. What I can promise you is that we have "put our house in order". We have cleaned the HDZ. I promise you that the top 100 people in HDZ are good people and we provide you full transparency into their accomplishments and connections. If you think any one of them is not good, let me know and we will investigate further. When you put us in government, to represent you, I promise that appointments to top positions in the bureaucracy will be made based on capability and credibility in a transparent process and not through nepotism and connection.

2. Our government is too big, too bureaucratic, too nepotistic. We are dropping in business competitiveness and this must end. We need a government that we can trust. I make a commitment to cleaning up the corruption at even the lowest levels. If the political environment is business friendly then the economy will grow on its own with no requirement for government support (subsidies, privileges and other hand-outs that cost the taxpayers money). I promise I will fix the judicial system and make government smaller and more business friendly.

3. We, the HDZ, do not want to govern you. We want to serve you. Croatia is your home, you deserve to have a say in how your home is built. We do not want to keep you out of the process of of government and so we will develop process that improve the public policy process. I promise to make government a more participative democracy with more direct involvement in the law-making process.

Would you vote for me?

More Info:

The role of the Opposition in a Parliamentary System (Canada)

Empire Club: The Role of the Opposition in Parliament

Australia: Opposition

New Zealand: The role of the Leader of the Opposition

The Loyal Opposition

The Opposition in the Canadian House of Commons: Role, Structure, and Powers
Željko Zidarić