The capital of Croatia opened a new chapter in its history by electing Tomislav Tomasevic as mayor on May 30. With almost 200 000 votes, Tomasevic became the mayor with the highest number of votes in the democratic history of Zagreb. With 65.25% of the votes, Tomasevic is ahead of his far-right opponent Miroslav Skoro by a large majority.
The 39-year-old mayor is an environmentalist, activist, Croatian MP and leader of the Mozemo! (We Can!) movement. His platform promises a “greener, fairer, more efficient as well as more transparent capital.” The previous mayor, Milan Bandic, was in his seventh term when he died of a heart attack in February 2021. Tomasevic and Skoro, the two candidates for mayor of Zagreb, both promised to end twenty years of corruption and bureaucratic incompetence.
Since his election in 2000, Bandic governed Zagreb almost without interruption until his death, except for a few short periods due to corruption scandals. Indeed, he was implicated in numerous scandals involving his use of Zagreb City Council funds for personal property, including personal residences.1
A difficult task awaits Tomasevic
During the years when Bandic was in power, the city of Zagreb saw a drastic change in its configuration, especially due to the abandonment of urban planning by the municipal administration. Indeed, the city center witnessed an over-construction of skyscrapers
, which eliminated green spaces. The suburbs were heavily affected by luxury housing developments built without permits, including Bandic’s personal residence. These new constructions hindered the access to Zagreb’s green spaces, which have drastically decreased in the last two decades. In general, Bandic’s administration favors luxury projects over social development and services, making life difficult for working-class Zagrebians.
An important task for Tomasevic and his team will be to address the problems caused by the March 2020 earthquake, which damaged several areas, including Zagreb’s historic downtown. In addition, Bandic is leaving his successor not only a debt-laden portfolio, but also problems with aging infrastructure, shortages of schools and daycare centers, and heavy traffic congestion.
Vote for a change
The people of Zagreb have indicated their desire for change in this election. Thus, Tomasevic pledged to reconfigure the city from infrastructure to finance. During his victory speech, he declared to his supporters:
Tomasevic plans to install solar panels on the city’s rooftops to make energy more profitable and introduce the principle of the circular economy to Zagreb. He pledges to provide support to Zagreb residences to install solar energy systems on at least half of the city’s homes by 2030.2 In addition, the new mayor encourages citizen participation for the sustainable reconstruction of the city. His election platform was written by two hundred people, and about 10 thousand citizens contributed to the creation of a unique vision for each district of Zagreb.
This election marks a new chapter for Zagreb’s municipal politics, which is taking an environmentalist turn, and shows a drastic change from the last decades. Indeed, to illustrate this change, during the 2017 municipal elections, Tomasevic was also a candidate, but only got 4% of the vote.