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article imageCroatian party seeks to scrub Tito's name from square

By AFP     Jun 20, 2017 in World

A right-wing party in Croatia wants to strip the name of Josip Broz Tito from a prominent square in the capital Zagreb, calling the communist Yugoslav leader a dictator.

"How is it possible in a democratic, independent Croatia that any public space is named after the communist dictator and Yugoslav potentate," Zlatko Hasanbegovic, a leader of the recently-formed Independent for Croatia party, told AFP on Tuesday.

A controversial former culture minister, Hasanbegovic is known for nationalist views.

His party said it would throw support behind beleaguered Zagreb mayor Milan Bandic only if he agrees to change the name of the Marshal Tito square in central Zagreb.

The populist mayor was re-elected to a sixth term earlier this month but is struggling to form a majority in the newly-elected city assembly.

Hasanbegovic's party had sent a letter to the ruling conservative party HDZ and Bandic demanding the new assembly rename the square "without delay".

Bandic last week responded by saying he would ask lawmakers to consider calling a referendum over the issue when they are expected to meet in July.

But Hasanbegovic rejected the call for a referendum, saying his party, which counts five MPs in the 49-seat assembly, would not back the mayor if he did not change the name of the square immediately.

"This is not a blackmail but rather a very clear political and principled demand," said Hasanbegovic, who was expelled from HDZ in May.

Protests in support of the name-change have erupted in the square in recent years, drawing crowds in the thousands and prompting counter-rallies of Tito supporters.

Several years ago, one of the country's leading human rights groups also said the tribute to Tito should be removed from the square, saying he was responsible for crimes against his opponents.

Tito, who ruled the communist Yugoslavia for 35 years until his death in 1980, remains a controversial figure in the former federation -- adored by some but considered a dictator by others.

After Tito's death, Yugoslavia spiralled into a series of bloody wars that claimed more than 100,000 lives.

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