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YouTube provides battleground for Croatian politics

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Video clips on YouTube of blunders, blushes and stammers by Croatia’s politicians have reignited pre-election hostilities between the ruling HDZ party and the opposition Social Democrats (SDP).

Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader (L) addresses reporters as his Bosnian counterpart Nikola Spiric stands behind him in Sarajevo March 29, 2007. Video clips on YouTube of blunders, blushes and stammers by Croatia's politicians have reignited pre-election hostilities between the ruling HDZ party and the opposition Social Democrats (SDP). REUTERS/ Danilo Krstanovic

Slips by Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and his ministers had been available on the Web for some time when Interior Minister Ivica Kirin denounced such clips as the work of the under-educated or political enemies.

He called the Website Yubito -- which he later said was meant as a joke -- in a television interview and quickly became the laughing stock of the nation.

The name Yubito stuck and started appearing on T-shirts until Kirin threatened to file lawsuits after he left office.

When the SDP elected Zoran Milanovic as its leader this month, the 41-year-old former diplomat also became an internet star. In a popular talkshow, Milanovic, known for his direct language, answered several questions with “I have no idea”.

Video clips dubbing him Zoran ‘No Idea’ Milanovic appeared on YouTube the next day.

“There is no hard evidence that parties themselves are putting clips on the web, but this is definitely part of the election campaign,” said Kreso Macan, a communication expert at Madison Consulting.

The HDZ denied any involvement but local websites reported that identical Milanovic clips were posted almost at the same time on the web page of a local HDZ branch.

“The Internet has become part of the mainstream political scene and YouTube is expected to be a part of the electoral campaign,” local news Web site, Index.hr, said on its site.

Croatia is preparing for a national election, due in November. The latest opinion polls have given an edge to the SDP over the ruling conservatives.

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