Balkan politicians wage Facebook wars

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A series of controversies regarding the involvement of politicians from the Balkan countries in the social networking website Facebook is taking its toll.

In Croatia, Prime Minister Ivo Sanader recently sparked a furore by ordering an inquiry into a young man’s decision to set up a Facebook group called ‘I bet I can find 5,000 people who dislike Sanader’. 

The young man, reportedly close to the Social Democrat opposition, was questioned by the police in a style reminiscent of the Communist rule. 

In a similar case, the initiator of another Facebook initiative was arrested for “disturbing the peace” under an old law from 1990 from the then Yugoslavia. This time, the young Croatian started a Facebook group calling for an anti-government rally in several cities, including the capital Zagreb. The group now counts more than 80,000 members. 

These incidents hardly serve to convince Brussels that Croatia, which is widely seen as the next 28th EU member, can convince Brussels that it has reformed its justice system. 

Facing mounting criticism, Sanader asked the Interior Ministry to investigate possible abuse by the law-enforcement authorities. 

But the war continued, as Facebook groups close to Sanader also proved active in the social network, and were no less inventive. 

Sanader fans attacked the leader of the Social Democrats (SDP) Zoran Milanovic by setting up Facebook groups called ‘Milanovic is a really annoying guy’, ‘Zoran Milanovic is a coward’ and ‘I bet I can find 15 999 people who dislike Milanovic’. 

In one such group, Milanovic is shown as a paedophile through a montage in which he admires a naked girl on an adult website, with a dialogue box reading: “A bit too young, but good.” 

In neighbouring Slovenia, an EU member, some 7,000 people have so far joined Facebook groups calling for the retirement of a leading politician. 

Dimitrij Rupel, who was the Slovenian foreign minister during his country’s EU Presidency in the first half of 2008, is under fire for having changed his party affiliation in 2004, moving from the left-wing Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) party to since-ousted former Prime Minister Janez Janša’s Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS). 

After the LDS returned to power last September, the new Prime Minister Borut Pahor nominated Rupel as Slovenia’s new ambassador to Austria, but President Danilo Turk overturned this decision. 

Then, much to the dismay of the Slovenian public, Pahor decided to appoint Rupel as one of his foreign policy advisors, which sparked the protests. 

Now Facebook activists want a referendum to be held to pass a law for Rupel’s political retirement. 

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