Milan Bandić ([mǐlan bâːndit͡ɕ:]) (; born 22 November 1955) is a Croatian politician currently serving his sixth term as a mayor of the Croatian capital, Zagreb. Between 2000 and 2009, he was a prominent member of the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP). In 2007, he unsuccessfully ran for party president. However, he remained one of the main rivals of the former party president Zoran Milanović. On 5 November 2009 he announced his intention to run for a president, in violation of the party's bylaws which led to his expulsion from the party. On 10 January 2010, he lost the Croatian presidential election to the official SDP candidate Ivo Josipović in the runoff elections.
Although described in 2002 as the SDPs most popular politician for the "famous 24 hours he devotes to the service of citizens of Zagreb", he has also gained notoriety for a number of actions and statements he has made as mayor. Bandić is viewed as a hands-on mayor because of his ambition and the number of projects related to Zagreb that he has undertaken. He is widely credited for the renovation of Ljubljanska Avenue (now Zagrebačka Avenue), for his work on the Arena Zagreb and the Homeland Bridge (which opened during his third term).
Milan Bandić was arrested in the evening hours of 19 October 2014, along with 18 other officials, under the suspicion of malfeasance related to Zagreb Holding. In his absence, his deputy Sandra Švaljek took the duties of mayor from 19 October 2014 until 26 March 2015. Bandić canceled the authorization that he granted to her because some disagreements between them. Consequently, Švaljek has resigned all of her duties in city. Bandić's second deputy Vesna Kusin took the duties of mayor on 26 March 2015. On 10 April 2015, Zagreb County Court ruled that Milan Bandić has to be released from prison while pending trial. Consequently, he returned to the position of Mayor.
Milan Bandić was born to Jozo and Blagica Bandić (née Tomić) in the small hamlet of Bandića Brig, a part of Cerov Dolac in the municipality of Grude, Bosnia and Herzegovina (then PR Bosnia and Herzegovina, FPR Yugoslavia). He was the middle child in the family, with an older brother Drago and a younger sister Tonka. His family's main source of income was a tobacco plantation. As a child, Bandić was altar servant in local church. He attended Antun Branko Šimić High School in Grude and he was excellent student. In 1974, he moved to Zagreb to study at the Department of Political Science at the University of Zagreb, program of National defense and social self-protection (today non-existent). To pay off his student loans he unloaded sugar and coal and he was also a mason.
After graduation, Bandić was conscripted to the Yugoslav People's Army, and after that he was employed in Ledo, producer of ice creams.
During his student days he met his wife Vesna. He was married to her until their divorce in 1996, although they still live together in their Stara Peščenica apartment. They have a daughter, Ana-Marija. Bandić has stated that his divorce was the result of a seven-year separation. Bandić owns two golden retrievers, Bil and Rudi, which he often walks during his work hours.
Bandić is an avid distance runner, describing himself as "addicted to running". He is reported to run 10 kilometers every weekday morning, and in March 2008 completed the 61 km Zagreb–Čazma ultramarathon.
Before becoming mayor
After serving the army and short work in Ledo company Bandić was employed in Municipal Committee of League of Communists of Croatia in Pešćenica where he worked as professional political worker.
After collapse of SFR Yugoslavia and League of Communists of Croatia Bandić did not want to leave the party because he worked for years in Pešćenica and thus it was matter of pride. He expressed his hopes that he and his colleagues will return to political stage as Croatian social democrats.
During the Croatian War of Independence Bandić helped with logistics.
Bandić was one of the few Herzegovinian Croats to remain with the party after the first democratic elections in 1990 in which the Communist Party, led by Ivica Račan, reformed and re-branded itself as the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP). He demonstrated organizational ability and populist political instincts. These abilities allowed the SDP to gain in Zagreb blue-collar neighborhoods and attract votes which the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and its then-president Franjo Tuđman had considered theirs by default. As such, he proved to be a valuable asset for the Social Democratic Party. In 1993 he became party secretary.
Conflict between HDZ and SDP manifested in the 1995 parliamentary and City of Zagreb elections, leading to the Zagreb Crisis: an electoral alliance (in which the SDP was a major partner) won a majority in the Zagreb elections and chose Goran Granić as the new mayor, but Franjo Tuđman used a legal loophole to stop Granić from taking office. Several subsequent elections were held, with the SDP winning each time and Tuđman promptly removing every candidate. For a time Zagreb was a city without a mayor, which led to public unrest and protests in Ban Jelačić Square. With the final 1997 election of the HDZ candidate Marina Matulović-Dropulić as the mayor of Zagreb, the crisis faded. Bandić played a role in the crisis by becoming a city councilman in 1995 and the leader of the Zagreb SDP in 1997.
During the first campaign his Herzegovinian background became an issue, as the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) suggested that only a native citizen of Zagreb could become the city's mayor. HSS also launched a propaganda campaign against Herzegovinians in an effort to undermine Bandić's campaign. The party hoped that the majority of Zagreb voters would turn away from Bandić. Those expectations were not fulfilled and Bandić later used his Herzegovinian background as an advantage, broadening his support among the ordinary citizens of Zagreb.
The HDZ under Bandić eventually lost power in the Croatian capital in 2000.
First and second terms (2000–2004)
Bandić was elected mayor of Zagreb in 2000 and re-elected in the city election in 2001. His rise in influence among SDP politicians and on the Zagreb political scene created a backlash by the Croatian People's Party (HNS), the other left-of-center party led by Vesna Pusić, who did not trust his nationalist populism and his occasional run-ins with the courts. The HNS campaigned against the SDP in the 2000 elections. However, the HNS entered into a coalition with the SDP in 2001. It governed Zagreb with the SDP until 2005 when it withdrew, again because of Bandić.
In 2002 Bandić fled from the scene of a motor vehicle accident while under the influence of alcohol (an incident heavily covered by the media), and the SDP council compelled him to resign. After his resignation there was uncertainty concerning his successor; while the Zagreb SDP had the right to nominate the mayor, it was so dominated by Bandić that it was questionable who could replace him. Eventually Vlasta Pavić took over as mayor, while Bandić retained a place in the Zagreb chain of command as deputy mayor. He was eager to become a mayor again, and blocked Pavić's development plans (advancing his own) while working toward an early election. In response Ivica Račan (head of the SDP) tried to restrain Bandić's activities. The rules then in force would not allow Bandić to have a second term as mayor during the current term of the assembly. Vlasta Pavić attempted to strike a deal ending the ongoing feud, but Bandić eventually succeeded in undermining her. Although no early elections were held, he was re-elected mayor in the May 15, 2005 elections.
Third term (2005–2008)
Following the illness and death of Račan Bandić announced his candidacy for SDP leadership, planning to resign as mayor afterwards. He competed against Željka Antunović, Zoran Milanović and Tonino Picula. Zoran Milanović was elected on 2 June 2007 as the new SDP leader, while Bandić remained mayor of Zagreb. He did not give up the fight, however, organizing opposition within the party and campaigning to defeat Milanović in the next party election.
On 26 June 2008 the Main Committee of SDP received a letter entitled Za što se, uopće, danas zalaže SDP? ("What, overall, does the SDP stand for today?") by Dražen Lalić (a Croatian sociologist) which attacked Bandić by pointing out his misdeeds and errors and questioning Bandić's loyalty to the SDP's principles. The letter was sparked partially by the assault and battery of anti-corruption Zagreb road-authorities director Igor Rađenović, which had not been properly investigated. Another reason was a concert held on Ban Jelačić Square by Marko Perković Thompson, a singer known to attract an ustaša audience. Bandić supported the concert instead of condemning it, inaccordance with SDP anti-nationalistic principles. Although the letter attacked the SDP as a whole, Bandić was considered a key participant in all events described. Bandić responded to the letter indirectly by encouraging the police to do their job, while failing to appropriately defend his position. Zoran Milanović responded instead, accusing Lalić of trying to buy himself a return to the Croatian political scene. Bandić thus received the SDP's support, ensuring his candidacy in the upcoming 2009 mayoral election.
Fourth term (2009–2013)
Until 2009, the mayor of Zagreb was elected by the city assembly (city council). In elections held in the spring of 2009, the mayor was directly elected for the first time. Bandić was forced into a second round not by HDZ candidate (Jasen Mesić) but by outsider Josip Kregar (dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Zagreb), who ran on an independent platform. Bandić won the second round, with 62 percent of the vote to Kregar's 37 percent. In October 2009, Bandić visited the site of a World War II partisan massacre on the island of Daksa with the Croatian Bishops' Conference. On 29 October 2009 Bandić's proposed exceptional budget, with a proposal to hold a referendum on the building of a new football stadium, was rejected. Among those voting against the budget was his own party, the SDP.
On 5 November 2009 Bandić announced his presidential candidacy in the 2009–2010 presidential election after media speculation. Bandić's move resulted in his automatic expulsion from the Social Democratic Party of Croatia and the loss of his positions as party president and leader of the Zagreb branch. He was replaced as leader of the Zagreb SDP by Davor Bernardić.
In the 27 December 2009 first round of the election Bandić received 14.83 percent of the vote, placing him in second place after SDP candidate Ivo Josipović (with 32.7 percent). On 10 January he lost the second round with 39.74 percent of the vote. In Zagreb Bandić lost both rounds of the election, receiving support in only a handful of city neighbourhoods.
Parliamentary election of 2011
On 8 October 2011 Bandić announced that he will compete in Croatian parliamentary election of 2011 with independent list named "Stijena" (English: Rock).
Fifth term (2013–2017)
Sixth term (2017–present)
One of Bandić's best-known projects is the renovation of Ljubljanska Avenue, whose eastern stretch beginning at Svilkovići Street (later Savska Opatovina Rotary) was later renamed to Zagrebačka Avenue. He is also credited with the Zagreb model apartment building (Croatian: Zagrebački model stanogradnje), also locally known as Bandićevi stanovi ("Bandić's apartments"). Radimir Čačić, another investor in the Zagreb apartment market, accused Bandić of trying to undermine the statewide POS housing projects. POS (Croatian: POticana Stanogradnja, "subsidized apartments") is cheap housing instituted by Radimir Čačić during the coalition of SDP, Bandić's party, and several other parties (such as Čačić's HNS, which ruled the Croatian government from 2000 to 2003).
Bandić has heavily criticized the state of Zagreb's transportation system which he encountered at the beginning of his mayoral career. With the guidance of Zagreb traffic engineers Bandić has approved ambitious transportation projects in Zagreb, such as the Ljubljanska/Zagrebačka Avenue widening, Homeland Bridge construction, renovation of the green wave system in the city center with the addition of bicycle paths and multi-level underground parking garages at Tuškanac, Kvaternik Square and other locations. An important project begun during Bandić's term in office is the Zagreb metro, which is planned to become the main suburban transportation mode to the city. Bandić has arranged the construction of the Arena Zagreb, a handball arena located in Lanište, which was constructed to prepare the city for the 2009 World Men's Handball Championship.
While an important public official in Zagreb, Bandić is also a controversial figure who has had several problems with law enforcement and the media. These run-ins once caused him to resign as mayor, and continue to damage his political reputation.
Drunk driving and resignation
In January 2002 Milan Bandić was stopped by Krešimir Mišić, a police officer, and accused of drunk driving. Bandić's attempt to bribe the officer was unsuccessful, and he then threatened the officer through his (alleged) connections with the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Croatia. His threats failed, and Mišić turned him in. When the media later found out about the incident and criticized Bandić, Mišić was fired for leaking information to the press. Under political pressure, Bandić resigned. A police investigation revealed that Mišić had 92 open cases when he was fired, so he was subjected to a disciplinary process for neglecting work. Bandić later helped him return to the force, becoming godfather to Mišić's daughter.
In April 2004 then-mayor Vlasta Pavić criticized Bandić for having spent 15 million kunas (about US$3.26 million) of city money to buy a lot on Heinzelova Avenue which was formerly owned by the meat packing plant Zagrepčanka. The controversy was dubbed "the Zagrepčanka case" by the newspapers. The city government could not use the lot, because its ownership was divided among 43 individuals. When (responding to a question from a city counselor) Mayor Pavić distanced herself from Bandić, Bandić was accused of cursing her mother in a vulgar way during the talks. He also published a newspaper advertisement on behalf of the city government, entitled Istina je! ("It's true!"). The advertisement was supported by all SDP members of the city council except Vlasta Pavić, the mayor at that time. Ivica Račan later condemned the advertisement as a political mistake, telling the Zagreb SDP that they would face consequences for their action.
A court case ensued, with charges being brought against Bandić and others involved. Three years later, Bandić was acquitted and the City of Zagreb was awarded ownership of the Zagrepčanka lot in a court judgment. Bandić promised a new business district in the Zagrepčanka location.
Not all legal troubles have been solved, however, as the city still has to deal with unsolved cases and complaints entered against the lot. In 2008 the sale of the Zagrepčanka lot to Institut IGH was announced, but the deal fell through in 2009; this has potential to incur a cost of €4.5 million to the Zagreb holding company.
As of October 2007 Bandić was under investigation by the USKOK (Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organized Crime) about several deals he made as mayor of Zagreb, including the July 2007 exchange of a lot at the intersection of Maksimirska Street and Šušak Avenue for a lot in Sesvetski Kraljevec. A court-appointed expert allowed the exchange at a price of 1,300 kuna per square meter (€185) for the Sesvete lot (located in the suburbs, outside the Zagreb bypass) and 2,300 kuna (€321) for the Maksimirska lot (located in the Maksimir district, several hundred meters from downtown). New experts considered the lot on Maksimirska Street to be more valuable than the lot in Sesvetski Kraljevec. Thus, a USKOK source testified that Bandić made a deal damaging to the city budget. The two companies with whom Bandić dealt were headed by inexperienced students, furthering the appearance of impropriety.
Cvjetni prolaz case
Bandić was involved in the Cvjetni prolaz case (a lengthy affair beginning in 2007), which centered on the controversial demolition and conversion of historical buildings in Petar Preradović Square into a shopping mall in Zagreb's Lower Town area. The project was headed by developer Tomislav Horvatinčić, who was alleged to have used illegal means in an attempt to evict the buildings' residents. These residents included a headquarters and church operated by the Zagreb-Ljubljana metropolia of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the home of the late poet Vladimir Vidrić. Bandić is known to be a strong supporter of Horvatinčić, publicly criticizing opponents of the project. In August 2008, Horvatinčić obtained a license to demolish the old buildings. Residents of the surrounding buildings and environmentalists argued that the license was improperly issued, but the demolition is (as of 2011) still underway. However, Horvatinčić is forbidden to demolish Vidrić's home or build any part of the project until he obtains a building-location license, which requires him to prove he can build a walkway between Gundulićeva Street and Cvjetni Square.
Golden Toilets case
In 2009. Croatian media revealed that Bandić spent 1,55 million kuna (210 000 €) of city money to build two public toilets. The media mockingly called these "The Golden Toilets". The media wrote that the job was given to the company TŽV Gredelj, specialized for construction of railway veichles without any tender. Gredelj then hired another company owned by Bandić's godfather to do the actual construction. In 2013. Croatian State Prosecutor's Office for the Suppression of Organized Crime and Corruption announced that they are investigating the case.
A controversy arose on 31 July 2005, when Bandić was on a bus with 30 other people and saw workers waving on the street. He then allegedly cited the Auschwitz motto: "Work liberates, the Nazis weren't totally dumb." Hrvoje Krešić, a Novi list journalist, allegedly heard Bandić and published his statement. The following day Bandić threatened to sue Krešić and Novi list; he claimed he said "Marxists," not "Nazis". Bandić's statement was corroborated by several of his nearby colleagues; other journalists at the rear of the bus did not hear anything said by Bandić, due to noise inside the vehicle. Bandić said that if awarded damages, he would donate the money to the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The director of the center, Efraim Zuroff, refused.
In January 2006, Bandić publicly threatened a journalist working for Večernji list. The journalist asked Bandić about an offer from a Czech company; Bandić replied aggressively, cursing and threatening the journalist. Afterwards, he claimed he had simply spoken to the journalist in a loud voice.
On 31 May 2007 Bandić fell asleep shortly before noon during a session of the Zagreb City Assembly; TV cameras captured the moment. This was apparently not the first time he suffered from sleep problems; he fell asleep on 16 June 2006 at the Croatian National Theater, where he presented an award to Marija Mustać, secretary of the Croatian Association of the Blind.
In May 2008 Bandić left his car illegally parked at the center of Šubićeva Street, creating a road hazard and causing traffic problems; he held a public presentation of a camera system designed to issue tickets to red-light runners, improperly-parked cars and the like. He then shopped in the Dolac open-air market while his driver waited in the car, obstructing traffic. When questioned about this incident, Bandić blamed it on his driver.
Bandić was arrested on 19 October 2014 on charges of corruption, bribery and organized crime, along with two other key members of the Zagreb city council.
On July 10, 2009, Bandić was made an honorary citizen of Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On November 4, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin honored Bandić with an Order of Friendship.
On 3 July 2003 after a session of the Zagreb City Council Bandić requested medical assistance, stating that he had begun to feel ill during the session. The media reported that he had suffered a minor stroke; the official explanation was that exhaustion and overwork had caused a blood vessel in his endocranium to spasm. He was hospitalized for a few weeks, then went to Krapinske Toplice to recover, and returned to his duties in September.