With the death of president Franjo Tudjman in December 1999, Croatian politics took an entirely new turn. Until then, the first president of independent Croatia had dominated the country. Tudjman, who had been imprisoned for nationalism between 1972 and 1981, formed the Croatian Democratic Union (CDU, but HDZ in Croat). During the campaign for the elections which were to follow in April – May, Tudjman fought a nationalistic campaign, portraying himself as ‘father of all the Croats’. The CDU obtained 42 per cent of the votes, but, thanks to the first past the post system, it obtained an absolute majority of seats against the former communists, who had changed their name to that of ‘League of Communists of Croatia-Party of Democratic Reform’. The CDU had 205 seats out of 351 while the communists obtained 73. Tudjman was the uncontested leader of the new country and he was elected president of Croatia by the new parliament. As a gesture he offered the vice-presidency to a Serb from Croatia, Jovan Raskovic, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (of Croatia) (SDP) who refused, but the office was accepted by another Serb (from Croatia).
The Republic of Croatia was proclaimed in Zagreb in August 1990, but the Serbs from three parts of the country, Krajina, and Eastern and Western Slavonia were organising themselves against Zagreb. A referendum took place in Krajina in July 1990, despite the attempt made by the Croat authorities to prevent it and it was overwhelmingly in favour of Serb autonomy. Croatian autonomy followed by independence and the autonomy and virtual independence of the Serb area of Croatia occurred in parallel. A new Constitution for Croatia was adopted by parliament in December 1990, and this included a right to secede from Yugoslavia. Ordered by the Yugoslav government to disarm their troops, the new Croat authorities refused to do so. This meant war; it also meant independence, which the Croat government declared in June 1991, after a further referendum boycotted by the