Tudjman scores decisive victory over far right

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FRANJO TUDJMAN, a Communist turned nationalist who led Croatia to independence last year, has won a second term as President in elections which resulted in a decisive defeat for the far right.

Electoral commission officials said yesterday that Mr Tudjman, 70, had 56 per cent of the vote, more than twice that of his nearest rival, Drazen Budisa, 42, a sociologist, who had 22 per cent. Mr Tudjman's second term in office runs for five years.

The ultra-right candidate, Dobroslav Paraga, 31, won less than 6 per cent in Sunday's elections despite having attracted large crowds during an election campaign in which he resurrected the slogans and symbols of the fascist Croatian state of the early 1940s.

Political analysts said that most Croats had been apprehensive about voting for such an extremist candidate when their country was at war and a quarter of its territory was under Serbian occupation. 'Paraga went too far in ideological terms. He was doing better when he simply criticised Tudjman,' said Zarko Puhovski, a politics professor at Zagreb University.

Mr Paraga's Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) also fared badly in the elections to the 124-seat parliament, scoring less than 6 per cent.

Some Croats fear that the defeat will provoke the HSP and its paramilitary wing, the black- shirted Croatian Defence Force, into using anti-constitutional tactics to expand its influence. HSP leaders warned before the election that they intended to seek 'a radical solution' to Croatia's problems if the vote went against them.

The big winner was Mr Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the centre-right party that has ruled Croatia since ousting the Communists in April 1990. It took about 43 per cent of the vote, which it is expected to translate into an overall majority in parliament.

The elections combined proportional representation with a first- past-the-post system for some seats, and in the latter category the HDZ won in places such as Dubrovnik and Split despite, gaining less than one-third of the vote.

With a parliamentary majority, Mr Tudjman may find it easier to resist opposition pressure to take a hard line against the United Nations forces who have set up protection zones in areas of Croatia conquered by Serbs last year. Most opposition parties accused Mr Tudjman of letting the UN troops help the Serbs to consolidate their grip on the occupied land.

On the other hand, some say that Mr Tudjman's runaway victory may encourage authoritarian tendencies. 'In terms of war and peace, Tudjman's victory is a good thing because he stands for a long-term solution. But in terms of democracy he is the worst possibility because for the last two years he has ruled Croatia as if from a court,' said Professor Puhovski.

Many of the 600,000 Serbs who lived in Croatia before the war took no part in the elections, either because they are now in the occupied areas, or are refugees, or felt no party properly represented them.

No Serb was elected, but the law provides for 13 Serbian representatives to be included in parliament later. Up to 150,000 ballots were cast by Croats abroad, or 4 to 5 per cent of all votes.