At last, the election reform that we have been insisting upon for a decade has been announced
With the publication of the population census, the problem of inequality of voting rights, which Gong has been warning and offering solutions for years, has again become relevant. The ruling party HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union), which did not respond to Gong's roundtable discussion on the unconstitutional nature of election results, caused by inequalities in voting rights, has now announced that it will make legislative changes by the summer break to make every vote of equal weight.
Gong's long-standing advocacy for the equality of the election votes could finally result in success – HDZ's Club President Branko Bačić announced that the ruling party would change the election legislation, so that the "weight" of the vote would be within the boundaries of legal tolerance. According to the current rules, 14 MP's are elected from each of the ten electoral constituencies in parliamentary elections, regardless of the difference in the number of voters between constituencies, while the new design aims to find a solution by either changing their borders, or by changing the number of deputies in each constituency, in proportion to their number of voters. This would put an end to the unconstitutional conduct of parliamentary elections, which has been present in all previous election cycles, and which Gong has continuously warned about, as well as implement a solution, hopefully on the trail of our recommendations.
Over the course of many years, Gong has actively promoted its recommendations to change the electoral system among the political elite, which it also called out due to a lack of political desire for change, and in September 2020 it published an analysis "Will the next parliamentary elections in Croatia be unconstitutional?", written by author Goran Čular, professor at the Faculty of Political Science in Zagreb. The study had shown that the current distribution of votes in constituencies has led to an unfair distribution of as many as 64 seats in the 2000 election cycle, while the 2020 election's inequality in voting rights directly affected the party's prospects for forming a government. If the constituencies had been in accordance with the law, the ruling party would lack three mandates to form a majority. The current division of constituencies in the parliamentary elections, which has remained unchanged for the seventh election cycle in 20 years, creates three related consequences: inequality of suffrage in which every vote does not have equal weight; which directly affects the election results and makes the parliamentary elections in Croatia illegal and unconstitutional.
As the issue of voter inequality in parliamentary elections goes beyond individual party interests, the same analysis suggested that political elites accept Gong's proposal of establishing a consensus on the unconstitutional nature of the electoral system. This would lay the foundations for changing the electoral system: the 10 electoral constituencies would remain, but their lines would follow the boundaries of the counties, with the possibility of an unequal number of MP's, in proportion to the population or voters.
In order to provide quality solutions for this issue, Gong had published in 2014 the recommendations "New Electoral Legislation". Inside, we proposed a series of necessary changes for the comprehensive change of the electoral system, the most important being the establishment of 6 electoral constituencies. In Gong's 2019 recommendations, we also offered a division into six constituencies, stating that the basis for calculating the number of MP's to be elected in each constituency might be population.
Aware that the debate on electoral legislation would open the question of a new regional reorganization of the state, around which there are great differences between political parties, in 2020 we devised a "middle way", or optimal strategy with ten constituencies, to reach political and public consensus on the need for electoral reform. The optimal strategy does not prevent the transition, when and if the conditions for this are met in the future, towards the establishment of 6 constituencies.It should be reminded that the mentioned problem of the Croatian parliamentary electoral system dates back to 2010, when the Constitutional Court sent a report to the Croatian Parliament, pointing out that the votes are not equally valid among electoral constituencies. Namely, ever since the implementation of the proportional electoral system, parliamentary elections have been held unconstitutionally - according to the Law on Constituencies, the difference in the number of voters between constituencies should not differ by more than 5%. The Croatian Parliament did not react to the report of the Constitutional Court at the time, so the Law on Constituencies has existed in its unconstitutional form since 1999, without political parties or governments wanting to change it. Since the publication of the report from the Constitutional Court, Gong has actively advocated the need for a comprehensive change in the electoral system, so that the vote of all voters would be equal, and so that the electoral system would be fairer and more democratic. As part of his activities, we pointed out the responsibility of the Croatian Parliament and the Government, which did not propose and adopt amendments to the law in time, as well as the Constitutional Court, which reacted too late to the observed irregularity.