Sunday, May 6, 2007

French elections and memories of ol'

Today is the final round of voting in the French Presidential elections. It seems that all of France is on pins and needles awaiting the outcome.

I’m walking through the streets of Zagreb on the way to meet an old friend for coffee, and can’t help but think back to what things were like here nearly a decade ago related to Croatia’s elections. Franjo Tudjman was in power, one of the architects of the Balkans war, intent on keeping power and portraying all opposition parties as “lackies” of the West. He was able to whip up xenophobic sentiment with a portion of the population – and the state-controlled media carried his divisive messages far and wide. Back then, some of us working in the political party sphere were decried as CIA spies and U.S. intelligence officers. It was an uphill battle for the six main opposition parties but they eventually prevailed. Or rather, the people of Croatia wanting a better life and embracing western values prevailed.

How far this tiny central European country has come since that time. It’s lesson in democracy worth remembering today as French voters go to the polls.

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