Jelsa Elections, May 2017

Published in Highlights

The forthcoming local elections on Hvar promise to be interesting, by contrast with the General Election two years ago, when Jelsa's Dobri duh ('Good Ghost') whispered wistfully from the sidelines of Facebook: "Haven't the elections finished yet?".

Dr. Željka Barbić-Peronja and Anita Drinković launching their Mayoral campaign. Dr. Željka Barbić-Peronja and Anita Drinković launching their Mayoral campaign. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Sadly, our Dobri duh is no longer bringing his or her light touch to Jelsa's goings-on, just at a time when humour is sorely needed. (Dobri duh's identity is a strictly guarded secret, known to very few - an amazing achievement in a small community where everyone seems to know all about everyone and everything.) At national level, Croatia's political scene has descended into chaos. How this will affect local voting patterns, if at all, is difficult to predict.

Pre-election fun at the Carnival, 'Nikša' getting it together with 'Anita' (and her dog). Photo: Vivian Grisogono

My connexion with Jelsa began in 1988. The political scene was very different. It was the tail-end of Communist (or Socialist if you prefer) Yugoslavia. Certain restrictions had been relaxed, making it possible for people who had been stripped of their nationality to regain it and return to live in their homeland. It was a time of hope and change. Tourism was thriving, and the main road from Jelsa to Stari Grad was about to be extended via a new tunnel to Hvar Town. A mass meeting of citizens was called in the Gradska Kavana - then a delightful old-Austrian-style cafe under the Town Hall, now a run-down nondescript space. People had their say. Democracy was in full flow. I was impressed and charmed.

Kruno Peronja, former President of Hvar Island, his brother Fabijan, Jelsa's friendliest bank manager and cultural organizer, and their cousin Jakov, owner of the much-prized restaurant 'Liberat', at Anita Drinković's campaign launch, May 6th 2017. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

With independence in 1990, Croatia took on new political structures, a multi-party system and democratic elections. At that time, Hvar had an island President, lawyer Kruno Peronja, who was largely responsible for instigating and promoting projects for improving island life, such as a much-needed modern sewage system. The outbreak of the war against Croatia in 1991 curtailed development projects, and the island became a refuge for displaced people from occupied parts of Croatia and refugees from Bosnia-Hercegovina - in August 1992 the displaced numbered 624, refugees 3,727, and the war was far from over.

Jelsa's young Mayor Nikša Peronja ready to greet the first seaplane, 27th August 2014. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Hvar no longer has a President to act as a unifying force. Its four local Council administrations and five Tourist Boards mostly act autonomously. The Island of Krk has demonstrated the value of unity. Its seven local authorities found consensus, together with the support of the Catholic Church at local and national level. They have been able to produce enviable plans for creating environmentally friendly energy resources and rubbish management, alongside sustainable tourism, covering the whole island. Much has already been achieved in just a few years.

Vjeran Piršić, a key figure in Krk's sustaionability programme, gave talks on Krk's successes in Hvar and Jelsa in April 2017, as the guest of Lista za ponos mista (Hvar) and Eco Hvar. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

On Hvar the concept of cooperation across the island does not feature large in the pre-election promises. The focus is mainly on very localized issues. Voting preferences are quirky. There are those who vote along Party lines; some according to the recommendations (or dictates) of the Catholic Church; many follow the example of their social companions. Jelsa's Bench, which has its own celebrity status thanks to Jelsa's famed British blogger Paul Bradbury, is often a source of block voting, as are Jelsa's many fine cafes. Candidates who can influence key people within these circles have a flying start.

Ace blogger Paul Bradbury standing behind Mayor Nikša Peronja and young musicians from the US on The Bench which Paul made famous. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

It is said that blandishments are used: individual votes may be worth a year's Council taxes; a block vote might guarantee someone a secure job for the foreseeable future. True or false? If true, these are bad habits which need to be eradicated. One thing's for sure, in a tiny community like Pitve voting privacy is not guaranteed when so many votes are predictable. Years ago I was lambasted by a neighbour who had worked out, by a process of elimination, that I must be the rogue voter who had put my 'x' against the Wrong Party. Local sleuths/mathematicians 1, secret ballot 0. How did Dobri duh Jelsa maintain watertight privacy? I wish I knew the secret!

Mayoral hopeful Anita Drinković presenting her programme for the environment, 6th May 2017. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Quirkiness continues even after the elections are over. Places on Council committees are allocated according to the demands of party or individual influence. In 2014 I was taken aback to find that Jelsa's Environment Committee, of which I had previously been a member, had been pared down to just a handful of people. Jelsa's two environmental registered charities, Održivi otok and Eco Hvar, were not included. In one meeting which I was invited to attend, Mario Skelin, a young agronomist, surprisingly averred that mankind's progress depended on chemical pesticides, or 'plant protectors' as he called them, using the agrochemical companies' euphemism. He was on the committee as representative of the Hrvatska Narodna Stranka (HNS - Croatian Peoples' Party).

Mankind's future depends on this? I think not. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Seven groups have registered to seek seats on the Jelsa Council at the local elections on May 21st 2017. Five represent national political parties, while two are independent. There are four candidates for the mayorship, one being the aforementioned Mario Skelin (HNS). The two main contenders are the current Mayor, Nikša Peronja, and Anita Drinković. Nikša now belongs to the Socijaldemokratska partija (SDP - Social Democratic Party), although he stood as an independent when he was elected in 2013. The SDP was in power in Croatia at the time. Anita represents the Hrvatska demokratska zajednica (HDZ, Croatian Democratic Union), which currently governs Croatia. In the February Carnival (Karnevol) the forthcoming duel between the two rivals was hilariously depicted in a mock romance balcony scene ending in a Punch-and-Judy style fight, with 'Anita's' (stuffed toy) dog mercilessly laying into 'Nikša'. (Anita is known to love dogs.)

Campaigning starts, 9th May 2017. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

It is telling that the two independent lists include people who previously supported Mayor Nikša and worked closely with him during the earlier part of his mandate. Ivo Duboković, who heads the Jelsa Tourist Board, and has done much to make it fully functional and effective, leads List 1 and is also challenging for the mayorship. Most people appreciate that Mayor Nikša has had some worthwhile achievements, especially in reducing the debt which was burdening the Council when he took over, and in being the first Croatian Mayor to accept the historic seaplane service in 2014.

Works on Jelsa's harbour, pictured here on 9th May 2017, have spanned over three years. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Nikša has been charming and approachable, and has brought a youthful dynamism to the Town Hall. He has also been ambitious. Sadly, some of his major building projects in Jelsa have been delayed or have even foundered because of insufficient funds. This will probably influence his chances of re-election.

Minister Žalac with Anita Drinković, 25th March 2017. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

The HDZ campaign for Anita Drinković has been the first to make an impact. On March 25th she hosted a well-attended meeting in which Gabrijela Žalac, HDZ Minister for Regional Development and EU Funding, described the work of her Ministry and its relevance to island communities like Hvar's.

Anita Drinković introducing her programme, 6th May 2017. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Anita's election campaign started in earnest on Saturday 6th May. Having spent the morning spreading charm, goodwill and homemade sweet treats around Jelsa's cafes, she and her deputy Dr. Željka Barbić-Peronja presented their detailed programme that evening to a full house in the Town Hall's Festive Meeting-Room.

Ivo Duboković hosting his group's inaugural meeting. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

By contrast, later that evening, Ivo Duboković hosted the first meeting of his select independent group (of which I am a member) in his atmospheric wine-cellar. The exchange of ideas was friendly, fulsome, free-ranging and fruitful. The basis of the group's campaign was established. Realistically, the small independent groups are on the fringes of the main action. Their primary aim is to gain representation on the Council, where they can play an important role in creating political balance, introducing objectivity in situations where party interests might threaten the best interests of the community as a whole.

Slogan for Ivo Duboković's independent group

The slogan for Ivo's group is 'Da skužoš, MORE BOJE' (island dialect for 'Excuse us, IT CAN BE BETTER'). Eco Hvar agrees. From Eco Hvar's point of view, there are many aspects of local life which could be improved, most of which were hopes highlighted after the elections four years ago. No-one listened then, perhaps attention will be paid this time?

1. Public toilets. There should be 24-hour public toilets in both Jelsa and Vrboska. Temporary toilets should be provided on or near all public beaches, as happens on Brač.

Toilet near a public beach on Brač. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

2. Recycling facilities are urgently needed.

3. Toxic rubbish. Facilities for disposing of used engine oil should be widely publicized. People should be encouraged to dispose of used batteries in those supermarkets which accept them. There should be a collection point for cans and canisters used for toxic chemicals such as paint and pesticides, and a system for transferring them to the authorized disposal facilities on the mainland.

4. Poisons:

(i) The practice of distributing rat poison to all households in polythene bags should stop, as it is a health hazard, also counter-productive as the vermin become resistant.

(ii) Street spraying with chemical insecticide should be banned - it is a) hazardous to health and b) at best ineffective, at worst counter-productive.

(iii) Herbicides and insecticides should be banned from public places. The Council should adopt the natural alternatives to chemical poisons.

5. Rubbish. There should be more rubbish bins in public places, and more measures to persuade people to dispose of rubbish responsibly. Volunteer clean-ups should be organized on a regular basis, especially with a view to educating children about minimizing rubbish and not spoiling the environment.

6. Graffiti. Graffiti should be cleaned up as soon as they appear – that discourages the graffiti perpetrators.

7. The Council should encourage organic farming methods in every way possible, to improve public health and the environment.

8. Green household practices. The Council should encourage the use of environmentally friendly cleaning and washing materials, to reduce chemical pollution in the sea and on land.

9. Road plans. There should be better provision for cyclists and walkers, both for locals and guests.

Cycle tracks and footpaths urgently needed! Photo: Vivian Grisogono

10. Urban improvements. Future planning for public spaces should include more trees and plants. Succulents would provide hardy year-round greenery and colour in planters around paved areas. Road islands should be left to flourish with wild flowers, which would need strimming just once or twice a year - prettier, easier and cheaper!

Jelsa needs more skilled horticultural practices. Photo: Vivian Grisogono (9th May 2017)

11. Animal welfare. The Council should provide the fullest support to Eco Hvar's initiatives for looking after abandoned animals and preventing animal cruelty.

12. Co-operation. The Council should co-operate with local volunteer groups and charities, also with the other local authorities across the island, especially in relation to projects important to all, such as energy provision.

The other local groups contesting the Jelsa elections have yet to present their programmes. Eco Hvar hopes that there will be much common ground, paving the way for consensus in the Council, regardless of party politics. We hope there will be a good turnout of voters, so that whoever is elected to the Mayorship or Council can feel confident that they have the true support of the majority of citizens. Co-operation is key, and voters are vital to the democratic process. It's not important which party or group wins. What is important is that the individuals given responsibility for Jelsa Council's management over the next four years should be capable, honest and hard-working. Above all, they should not be ruled or guided by party politics or personal ambitions. If they work for the best interests of the whole community, peace, harmony, order and prosperity will result, to the benefit of all.

ELECTION OUTCOME

Sitting Mayor Nikša Peronja and his new Deputy Vlatka Buj scored a resounding victory, proving that a low-key public campaign backed by carefully targeted behind-the-scenes canvassing was the key to getting the desired result. The Mayor's party also secured six seats on the local Council, giving them a majority. Re-election has meant that Mayor Peronja can continue with the major building projects in hand, and the new duo expressed their gratitude to via Facebook:

Eco Hvar wishes the re-jigged team in the Town Hall all the best, in the hope that the important issues we have raised relating to animal welfare and the environment will finally lead to some positive action.

Mayor Nikša Peronja with Deputy Vlatka Buj pictured in Jelsa on 3rd June 2017. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

© Vivian Grisogono, 9th May 2017, updated January 2018.

You are here: Home highlights Jelsa Elections, May 2017

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Report looks at 16 conflict areas and calls for military to stop targeting water resources

    Diarrhoea and other diseases related to poor sanitation are bigger killers of children in areas of conflict than violence and war itself, a report has found, highlighting the need for improved infrastructure as a way of helping civilian populations afflicted by warfare.

    Children under five are more than 20 times more likely to die from diarrhoeal diseases than from direct violence, according to Unicef. Henrietta Fore, the organisation’s executive director, said: “The reality is there are more children who die from lack of access to safe water than by bullets.”

    Continue reading...

  • Failure to protect wildlife, cut pollution and increase funding have left nature in ‘deep crisis’

    The UK will miss almost all the 2020 nature targets it signed up to a decade ago, according to a report by the government’s official advisers.

    The nation is failing to protect threatened species; end the degradation of land; reduce agricultural pollution; and increase funding for green schemes, the assessment concludes. It also says the UK is not ending unsustainable fishing; stopping the arrival of invasive alien species; nor raising public awareness of the importance of biodiversity.

    Continue reading...

  • The ‘Dieselgate’ scandal was suppressed for years – while we should have been driving electric cars. By Beth Gardiner

    John German had not been looking to make a splash when he commissioned an examination of pollution from diesel cars back in 2013. The exam compared what came out of their exhaust pipes, during the lab tests that were required by law, with emissions on the road under real driving conditions. German and his colleagues at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) in the US just wanted to tie up the last loose ends in a big report, and thought the research would give them something positive to say about diesel. They might even be able to offer tips to Europe from the US’s experience in getting the dirty fuel to run a little cleaner.

    But that was not how it turned out. They chose a Volkswagen Jetta as their first test subject, and a VW Passat next. Regulators in California agreed to do the routine certification test for them, and the council hired researchers from West Virginia University to then drive the same cars through cities, along highways and into the mountains, using equipment that tests emissions straight from the cars’ exhausts.

    Continue reading...

  • Rob Stewart’s followup to his 2006 feature shines a light on human cruelty – and gains power from the fate of its maker

    In the 2006 eco-doc Sharkwater, Canadian activist film-maker Rob Stewart gave us a heartfelt plea to save the planet’s sharks. He was on a mission to reduce overfishing and rehabilitate the creatures’ reputation as stone-cold killers – if only we could love sharks as much as we love cuddly pandas we’d do more to protect them. Back then, you couldn’t help feeling that Stewart wanted us to love him too, with all the shots of himself in tiny Speedos. Watching the sequel, I experienced a sharp stab of self-reproach. Stewart died in a diving accident while shooting this film – he was 37. Sharkwater: Extinction has been scrappily put together from footage he’d already shot.

    And there are some striking images here. Since the first film, many countries have banned “finning” ­– the practice of hacking off the fins then tossing the shark’s body back into the sea. But it still happens. In Costa Rica, Stewart uses a drone to film a warehouse packed with them. Shark fin soup is a delicacy in China, which drives the illegal market. And it’s not just finning that’s the problem. In California, he captures upsetting footage of a graceful thresher shark tangled up in a mile-long net intended for swordfish.

    Continue reading...

  • World Water Day study highlights lethal nature of unsafe sanitation and hygiene for children, especially under-fives

    Children under five who live in conflict zones are 20 times more likely to die from diarrhoeal diseases linked to unsafe water than from direct violence as a result of war, Unicef has found.

    Analysing mortality data from 16 countries beset by long-term conflict – including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen – the UN children’s agency also found that unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene kills nearly three times more children under 15 than war.

    Continue reading...

  • Science agency says scourge of wandering trad could be slowed by fungus, which they have called its ‘natural pathogen’

    Australia’s national science agency will release a Brazilian leaf smut fungus to target and kill an invasive weed that covers large parts of the continent’s east coast.

    Researchers from the CSIRO say the scourge of wandering trad could be slowed by the introduction of the Kordyana brasiliensis fungus, which they have called its “natural pathogen”.

    Continue reading...

  • While the ultimate goal is to stop plastics from entering the water in the first place, cleanup projects play an important role

    Somewhere in Hilo, on Hawaii’s Big Island, a team of scientists and engineers are tending to The Ocean Cleanup’s 600-metre-long rubbish-herding device, after its maiden voyage to the Great Pacific garbage patch was cut short in December 2018, because it fractured into two pieces.

    The project has had its fair share of problems since it was unveiled in May 2017 and has been criticised by marine scientists and environmental groups for its potential negative environmental impact. However, some still herald The Ocean Cleanup for having a positive effect on plastic pollution.

    Continue reading...

  • The latest study warning us to eat less meat has brought angry sceptics out in droves. But who should we believe?

    Sometimes, particularly when looking at the weekend newspapers, it can seem that our obsession with food and health has reached a pitch of pure hysteria. “Eat!” screams one headline. “Diet!” shouts another. Cut out carbohydrates, suggests one report. Carbs are good for you, says a different one. Lower your fat intake. No, fat’s healthy, sugar’s the problem. Coffee raises the risk of heart disease. But it lowers the risk of diabetes. And so on, until you just want to ditch the papers and watch The Great British Bake Off or MasterChef.

    Food, how to cook it, what it does to you and what growing or rearing it does to the planet are issues that crowd the media. And yet, as the clamour grows, clarity recedes. An estimated 820 million people went hungry last year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. A third of all people were vitamin-deficient. Two billion were classified as overweight and 600 million as obese. It’s also estimated that 1bn tonnes of food are wasted every year – a third of the total produced. A plethora of academic reports concerning food consumption and production have been published in recent years. The latest and arguably the most far-reaching is Food in the Anthropocene:the Eat-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems, which was conducted over three years by 37 senior scientists from around the world and published earlier this year.

    Continue reading...

  • Scientists say a drastic cut in meat consumption is needed, but this requires political will

    It has been known for a while that the amount of animal products being eaten is bad for both the welfare of animals and the environment. People cannot consume 12.9bn eggs in the UK each year without breaking a few.

    But the extent of the damage, and the amount by which people need to cut back, is now becoming clearer. On Wednesday, the Lancet medical journal published a study that calls for dramatic changes to food production and the human diet, in order to avoid “catastrophic damage to the planet”.

    Continue reading...

  • The continent’s largest land mammal plays crucial role in spiritual lives of the tribes

    On 5,000 hectares of unploughed prairie in north-eastern Montana, hundreds of wild bison roam once again. But this herd is not in a national park or a protected sanctuary – they are on tribal lands. Belonging to the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of Fort Peck Reservation, the 340 bison is the largest conservation herd in the ongoing bison restoration efforts by North America’s Indigenous people.

    The bison – or as Native Americans call them, buffalo – are not just “sustenance,” according to Leroy Little Bear, a professor at the University of Lethbridge and a leader in the bison restoration efforts with the Blood Tribe. The continent’s largest land mammal plays a major role in the spiritual and cultural lives of numerous Native American tribes, an “integrated relationship,” he said.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds