Meet Marijana Puljak from Croatia
When IT engineer Marijana Puljak took her first steps into civic activism more than a decade ago, she merely wanted to see that her neighbourhood in the city of Split, Croatia got a primary school for her children and those of her neighbours. Twelve years down the road, she is a full-time politician and has the ambition to establish a new liberal alternative to the status-quo parties that, instead of forever digging into the past, seeks workable solutions for the country.
“You have smart phones, smart cars, technology is all around – so why not have a smart party to govern the cities and the states that chooses smart solutions,” she says.
“Ten percent of the population of the country has left Croatia during the past few decades. I don't believe it is only because of lower paycheques, but because they are sick of fighting. Sick of the fact that, if you want to have a job, you need to be part of the ruling party, part of the corruption and clientelism. That is the situation, and people who really want to use corruption to stay in power are inventing problems that people get caught up in,” the politician from the Center party (previously called “Pametno”, or “Be smart” in Croatian).
The party is committed to liberal values and is described by this up-and-coming politician as a pro-women's rights, pro-right to choose, pro-abortion rights, pro-minorities’ and gay rights and for other liberal democratic rights that she sees as already enshrined in the country’s constitution and no longer up for debate.
For Puljak, who is a relative newcomer to the political world after two decades in the private sector, it is sometimes hard to swallow this change of career paths. “I wake up every morning and I ask myself: “why am I doing this”, because, really, what makes politics hard, is that people are fed up with it. They think nothing can be changed,” she says.
To her, the public perception in Croatia is that all politicians are the same and voting will not change anything – this is why about half of them abstain from going to the polls. “This is why sometimes I think I'm crazy, I could be in business now, do what I like, and work with colleagues on IT solutions. But then I turn on the TV, see these corrupt criminals, and I say, "come on, we need to fight this."
She singles out domestic violence as the number one issue Croatian women need to fight today. “There were high-profile cases, even some politicians were reported to have abused their wives, but sometimes even women don't report it, because they think that it's the way it is supposed to be. There are conservative beliefs in this country that say that women should stay at home and obey their husbands,” she laments.