The candidate of the Green-Left coalition for the new mayor of Zagreb, Tomislav Tomasevic, said on Thursday that "he had neither asked for the police protection, nor did he have it," state agency Hina reported.
Tomasevic told reporters on Thursday that the campaign in the run-up to the second round of the mayoral election in which he will face off against the leader of the right-wing Homeland Movement, Miroslav Skoro, is marked by hate and incendiary speech and fake news “as never before.”
He added that he had come to his news conference “by tram and on foot” just as he had done yesterday.
“I do not have police protection, I have not requested it. Yesterday, you saw the stepped-up police presence as part of their regular activities at some of our gatherings,” Tomasevic said after reporters saw some police officers standing near the venue of Tomasevic’s news conference, which prompted media outlets and some politicians to speculate that Tomasevic had been given police protection.
In response to reporters’ questions on Wednesday if he had been given police protection, Tomasevic told reporters to ask police about that. “Because security assessment is not what me and my colleagues do,” he said.
Local police had issued what seemed to be an intentionally ambiguous statement on Wednesday which neither denied nor confirmed these speculations. President Zoran Milanovic also weighed in on this enigma on Wednesday afternoon.
“I bet that that Tomasevic had been receiving threats, given that his opponent Miroslav Skoro is running an incendiary campaign,” Milanovic said.
Later in the day, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic also felt compelled to comment on Skoro’s rhetoric, saying that leftist parties in Zagreb had “kept quiet about the attacks on him and his HDZ party” yet were now “appalled by Skoro’s attacks.”
“Now you hear the crying of all the people who otherwise keep quiet, and that’s the phenomenon of the Zagreb local election. You have the left which is now crying, yet is otherwise silent,” he said.
In response to Plenkovic’s comments, Tomasevic commented on Thursday that “nobody from the left is crying now.” Tomasevic also seems to have found out whether he is under increased police protection by Thursday.
“I do not have police protection, I and my asistent have come together (to this event). There is no police here,” Tomasevic told reporters, adding that he “feels safe” and that he has not received “any serious threat to date.” He said again that it was up to the police to assess security threats at public gatherings.
He said that when it came to fake news distributed via social media that “there is a direct connection between Skoro and the funding of the profileration of fake news on social media.”
News website Index.hr had published an investigative article on Wednesday alleging that there are links between campaign promoters Skoro had hired, and several websites which look like media outlets and which aggressively advertise items negative content targeting Tomasevic to local Facebook users.
Tomasevic said that he would consider taking legal action over this smear campaign but only after the mayoral runoff on May 30, which he is widely expected to win.
“We are now focused on the second round of the elections,” he added.