Milan Bandić

Milan Bandić (Croatian pronunciation: [mǐlan bâːndit͡ɕ:] (About this soundlisten); 22 November 1955 – 28 February 2021) was a Croatian politician who served as mayor of Zagreb from 2000 to 2002 and again from 2005 until his death in 2021.

Milan Bandić
Vladimir Putin at award ceremonies (2018-11-04) 02 (cropped) (2).jpg
Bandić in 2018
50th and 52nd Mayor of Zagreb
In office
14 June 2005 – 28 February 2021
Preceded byVlasta Pavić
Succeeded byJelena Pavičić Vukičević (Acting)
In office
2 June 2000 – 1 March 2002
Preceded byMarina Matulović-Dropulić
Succeeded byVlasta Pavić
President of the Bandić Milan 365 -
Labour and Solidarity Party
In office
28 March 2015 – 28 February 2021
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byJelena Pavičić Vukičević
Personal details
Born(1955-11-22)22 November 1955
Grude, PR Bosnia and Herzegovina, FPR Yugoslavia
Died28 February 2021(2021-02-28) (aged 65)
Zagreb, Croatia
Political partySKH (1980–1990)
SDP (1990–2009)
BM 365 (2015–2021)
Vesna Bandić
(m. 1981; div. 1996)
(m. 2003)
  • Jozo Bandić
  • Blagica Tomić
Alma materUniversity of Zagreb

Bandić started his political career in 1983 by working in the Peščenica municipality. He rose to prominence in the 1990s as the leader of the Zagreb branch of the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP). Following SDP's victory in the 2000 local elections, he was elected mayor by the Zagreb Assembly, ending a decade of Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) rule, and was re-elected in 2001. He resigned in 2002 due to his involvement in a car accident, but remained deputy mayor. He returned to the mayoral position after the SDP won the 2005 elections. Bandić was both a prominent force within and one of the most popular members of the SDP.

In 2007, he unsuccessfully ran for party president, losing to Zoran Milanović. Bandić won a fourth term in the 2009 mayoral election, when the mayor was for the first time directly elected. Later in the year, he announced his candidacy for Croatian president, and was automatically expelled from the SDP as the party already had a candidate. He subsequently lost the presidential election to the SDP candidate Ivo Josipović. As an independent, Bandić won the 2013 mayoral election against SDP's Rajko Ostojić. In October 2014, Bandić was arrested for suspected corruption. His deputies took over the mayoral role in his absence. Bandić returned to the position of mayor in April 2015, following a court ruling to release him from prison. He founded a new party and went on to win a sixth term in 2017.

Bandić is viewed as having been a hands-on mayor because of his ambition and the number of projects related to Zagreb that he undertook. He put a focus on large infrastructure activities and social welfare programs, and embraced a populist rhetoric. He attracted criticism for a number of statements he made as mayor and corruption allegations, which ended in two court proceedings, but without a conviction. Bandić was credited for the construction of the Arena Zagreb and Homeland Bridge, which opened during his third term, and the renovation of the Zagrebačka Avenue, Lake Bundek, and the Remetinec Roundabout. Bandić campaigned for a seventh term, but died from a heart attack on 28 February 2021, less than three months before the election, as the longest-serving mayor of Zagreb.

Private lifeEdit

Bandić was born to father Jozo Antun Bandić and mother Blagica 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).[2] He was the middle child in the family, with an older brother Drago and younger sister Tonka.[3] His family's main source of income was a tobacco plantation. As a child, Bandić was an altar boy in the local church.[2] He attended Antun Branko Šimić High School in Grude and he was excellent student.[3] In 1974, he moved to Zagreb to study at the Department of Political Science at the University of Zagreb.[2] To pay off his student loans he unloaded sugar and coal.[2]

After graduation, Bandić was conscripted to the Yugoslav People's Army, and after that he was employed in Ledo a producer of ice creams.[2]

During his student days he met his wife Vesna.[2] He was married to her until their divorce in 1996, although they subsequently still lived together in their Stara Peščenica apartment. They had a daughter Ana-Marija.[1] Bandić stated that his divorce was the result of a seven-year separation.[1] Bandić owned two golden retrievers, Bil and Rudi, which he often walked during his work hours.[4][5]

Bandić was an avid distance runner, describing himself as "addicted to running".[6] He was reported to run 10 kilometers every weekday morning,[7] and in March 2008 completed the 61 km ZagrebČazma ultramarathon.

Political careerEdit

Before becoming mayorEdit

After serving the army and a short time working at the Ledo company Bandić gained employment with the Municipal Committee of the League of Communists of Croatia (SKH) in Peščenica as a professional political worker.[2][3] After the collapse of SFR Yugoslavia and SKH, Bandić did not want to leave the party because he worked for many years in Peščenica and thus it was matter of pride.[2] He expressed his hopes that he and his colleagues would return to the political stage as Croatian social democrats.[2] During the Croatian War of Independence, Bandić helped with logistics.[2]

Bandić remained with the party after the first democratic elections in 1990 in which the SKH, led by Ivica Račan, reformed and re-branded itself as the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP). He refused an offer to join the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).[8] He demonstrated organizational ability and populist political instincts.[3] These abilities allowed the SDP to gain in the blue-collar neighborhoods of Zagreb and attract votes which the HDZ and its then-president Franjo Tuđman had considered theirs by default.[3] As such, he proved to be a valuable asset for the SDP and in 1993 he became party secretary.[3] Bandić played a role in the Zagreb Crisis by becoming a city councilman in 1995 and the leader of the Zagreb SDP in 1997.[9] Following the victory of the SDP in the 2000 Croatian parliamentary election, in which Bandić was elected as member of the Croatian Parliament on the SDP list,[10] Bandić advocated for early elections in Zagreb. His actions led to the dissolution of the Zagreb Assembly and the replacement of incumbent Mayor Marina Matulović-Dropulić from the HDZ with a government commissioner.[11] Snap elections were called for 7 May 2000.[12]

First and second mayoral terms (2000–2002)Edit

The SDP won the 2000 local elections.[3][13] Bandić won a third mandate as representative in the Zagreb Assembly, and was elected mayor of Zagreb by the Assembly on 31 May. He took office on 2 June 2000.[14] In his first term as mayor, Bandić emphasized social issues. He held a session of the Assembly in one of the poorest and mostly illegally built neighborhood of Kozari Bok in the Peščenica – Žitnjak district, with a population of Roma and refugees. A photograph of him in a suit walking over a mud puddle, made during a tour of the neighborhood, was later used in his political campaigns to present Bandić as a "man of the people". The subsequent construction of communal infrastructure in the neighborhood made Bandić particularly popular among the Roma community of Zagreb.[15][16] He focused his messages on the lower middle class and the poor, introduced a more direct and personal model of governing the city, and expanded welfare benefits. His model of governance, maintained throughout his tenure, was partly based on the late socialist self-management system of 1980s Yugoslavia, when a combination of socialist populism and clientelism was common in the management of large state-owned enterprises.[17]

Bandić was re-elected in the 2001 local elections.[18] At the time, he was one of the most popular members of the SDP and had considerable influence in the party.[19] He pledged to find a solution for the Zagreb's landfill in Jakuševec,[20] which was left unresolved throughout his tenure as mayor.[21] The SDP governed Zagreb in a coalition with the Croatian People's Party (HNS) from 2000 to 2005.[22]

In 2002, Bandić fled from the scene of a motor vehicle accident while under the influence of alcohol. He tried to bribe the officer who stopped him and threatened the officer with his alleged connections in the Ministry of the Interior.[23] The incident was heavily covered by the media that asked for his resignation.[23] Under public pressure, the SDP leadership compelled Bandić to resign.[24][25][23] Bandić's resignation was confirmed by the Assembly on 31 January, but he remained in office until a new mayor was appointed.[26] 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.[24] On 1 March, Vlasta Pavić took over as mayor,[27] while Bandić retained a place in the Zagreb chain of command as deputy mayor. He was eager to become the mayor again, and blocked Pavić's development plans while working toward an early election.[28][29][30] In response, Ivica Račan tried to restrain Bandić's activities.[31] The rules then in force would not allow Bandić to have a second term as mayor during the current term of the assembly.[32] Although no early elections were held, he was once again elected mayor following the 2005 election,[33][30] on 14 June.[34]

In April 2004, then-mayor Vlasta Pavić criticized Bandić for buying land formerly owned by the meat packing plant Zagrepčanka, as the city was unable to register itself as the owner.[28] The controversy was dubbed "the Zagrepčanka case" by the newspapers.[28][25] Pavić distanced herself from Bandić, and Bandić was heard cursing her during a session of the Assembly.[28][25] The city's SDP launched an advertisement in support of Bandić's decision to buy the land. A court case ensued, with charges being brought against Bandić and others involved.[35] 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.[36]

Third mayoral term (2005–2009)Edit

Panorama of Lake Bundek, renovated in 2006
Bandić at the Snow Queen Trophy, January 2009

Following the 2005 local elections, the SDP, which ran in a coalition with the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) and the Croatian Party of Pensioners (HSU), won a majority in the Assembly and formed a governing majority with the Independent list of Tatjana Holjevac. Bandić was then elected for a third term by the Assembly.[37]

A controversy arose in July 2005, when a Novi list journalist alleged that Bandić said "Work liberates, the Nazis weren't totally dumb". The following day, Bandić threatened to sue the journalist and the newspaper; he claimed he said "Marxists", not "Nazis".[38]

In January 2006, Bandić publicly threatened a journalist working for Večernji list because the journalist asked Bandić about an offer from a Czech company; Bandić then replied aggressively, cursing and threatening the journalist.[39] Afterwards, he claimed he had simply spoken to the journalist in a loud voice.[39]

During Bandić's third term, the Bundek lake was renovated and officially opened in May 2006.[40]

Following the illness and death of Račan, Bandić announced his candidacy for president of the SDP at the 2007 leadership election.[41] He competed against Željka Antunović, Milanović, and Tonino Picula. Milanović was elected on 2 June 2007 as the new SDP leader.[42] Bandić reportedly established himself as the leader of the opposition within the party against Milanović, who was alleged to have wanted Bandić out of the mayoral office.[43][44] Both Milanović and Bandić later denied that there were major disagreements and a discord in the SDP.[45] In 2008, a letter signed by 26 public figures of the Croatian Left, including academic Dražen Lalić, criticized the policies of the SDP, particularly Bandić's tenure as mayor and corruption allegations, and called out Milanović for "betraying social democracy". Milanović and the SDP leadership refuted the letter and expressed their support for Bandić.[46][47]

Bandić was involved in the Cvjetni prolaz case, 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.[48] The project was headed by developer Tomislav Horvatinčić, who was alleged to have used illegal means in an attempt to evict the buildings' residents.[48] 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.[49] Bandić was known to be a strong supporter of Horvatinčić,[50] publicly criticizing opponents of the project.[51] In August 2008, Horvatinčić obtained a license to demolish the old buildings.[50] Residents of the surrounding buildings and environmentalists argued that the license was improperly issued. In 2009, Croatian media revealed that Bandić spent 1.55 million kunas (210 000) of city money to build two public toilets.[52] The media mockingly called these "The Golden Toilets".[53][54] The media wrote that the job was given to the company TŽV Gredelj, specialized for construction of railway veichles without any tender.[54] Gredelj then hired another company owned by Bandić's godfather to do the actual construction.[52] In 2013, the USKOK announced that they were investigating the case.[53]

Fourth mayoral term (2009–2013)Edit

Bandić at the ceremony of raising of NATO flag in Zagreb on 7 April 2009

Until 2009, the mayor of Zagreb was elected by the city assembly. In the elections held in the spring of 2009, the mayor was directly elected for the first time.[55] In the second round, Bandić competed against Josip Kregar, who ran on an independent platform.[56] Bandić won the second round, with 62 percent of the vote to Kregar's 37 percent.[57] In October 2009, Bandić visited the site of a World War II partisan massacre on the island of Daksa with the Croatian Bishops' Conference.[58] On 29 October 2009, Bandić proposed an exceptional budget, with a proposal to hold a referendum on the building of a new football stadium, which in the end was rejected.[59] Among those voting against the budget was his own party.[59]

In 2010, during his fourth term, Bandić provided the voice of the Metroville mayor in the critically and commercially successful Croatian-language version of Megamind, with the other stars being the actors; Ozren Grabarić, Igor Mešin, and Jerko Marčić.[60][61]

Since 2010, the city organizes the award-winning "Advent in Zagreb" christmas market.[62]

Bandić initiated the construction of several fountains next to the National and University Library in 2012. The project, often called the Bandić's fountains, was completed in 2016.[63][64]

Presidential campaignEdit

Pro-Bandić billboard during the second round of the 2009–10 Croatian presidential election

On 5 November 2009, Bandić announced his presidential candidacy in the 2009–10 presidential election after media speculation.[65] Bandić's move resulted in his automatic expulsion from the SDP and the loss of his position as leader of the party's Zagreb branch.[66] He was replaced as leader of the Zagreb SDP by Davor Bernardić.[67] In the presidential election, Bandić ran on a populist platform with a slogan "mayor of Croatia".[68] In the first round of the election, on 27 December 2009, Bandić received 14.83 percent of the vote, placing him in second place after SDP candidate Ivo Josipović with 32.7 percent.[69] On 10 January he lost the second round with 39.74 percent of the vote.[70] In Zagreb Bandić lost both rounds of the election, receiving support in only a handful of city neighbourhoods.[71][72]

In Zagreb, the SDP retained a majority in the Assembly and there was a divided government until the end of Bandić's fourth term.[73] On 8 October 2011, Bandić announced that he would compete in the 2011 parliamentary election with the independent list named "Stijena" (English: Rock).[74]

Fifth and sixth mayoral terms (2013–2021)Edit

At the head of his independent list, Bandić won a fifth mayoral term at the 2013 local elections and a majority of mandates in the Assembly.[75] During the election campaign, Bandić pledged to provide textbooks to primary school pupils free of charge. He blamed the 2009-2013 Assembly for not providing it in the previous term, and was one of his main election promises. He introduced the measure following his re-election.[76] For the 2015/2016 school year, it was expanded to include secondary school pupils.[77]

Bandić was arrested on 19 October 2014 on charges of corruption, bribery, and organized crime, related to Zagreb Holding, along with two other key members of the Zagreb city council.[78][79] The case became known as the Agram affair, and was one of two charges against Bandić that ended in an ongoing court proceeding.[80] In his absence, his deputy Sandra Švaljek took the duties of mayor from 19 October 2014 until 26 March 2015.[81] Bandić canceled the authorization that he granted to her because of some disagreements between them.[82][83] Consequently, Švaljek 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, the Zagreb County Court ruled that Bandić had to be released from prison while the case was pending trial. Bandić then returned to the position of mayor.[84]

In March 2015, Bandić founded a new social democratic political party, the Bandić Milan 365 - Labour and Solidarity Party (BM 365). Bandić commented that he was always a social democrat and described Zagreb as the most socially sensitive European capital.[85][75] In the same month, Bandić's supporters organized a petition called "Stop political arrests". Among the signatories were Croatian film producer Branko Lustig and former Finance Minister Slavko Linić.[86] The BM 365 won seats in the 2015 and 2016 parliamentary elections.[10] The party won a majority in the Zagreb Assembly in the 2017 local elections, and Bandić was re-elected mayor for a sixth term.[75] A coalition was formed in the Assembly with the HDZ.[87]

In a court case known as the Stands affair, regarding an alleged favoring of a voluntary organization, Bandić was found not guilty in a first-instance verdict in October 2018.[88] The indictment in the Agram case was expanded to include charges of irregularities in waste disposal.[89]

In July 2019, the residents of an illegaly built and improvised Roma settlement were accommodated in city apartments, and the settlement was demolished. The city's Council of Roma praised the move.[90] Throughout his mayoral terms, Bandić maintained close relations with minority representatives and organizations on local and state level, and financed their activities.[91]

In May 2020, on the occasion of the City of Zagreb Day, Bandić opened the reconstructed Remetinec Roundabout, a joint project of the City and the Croatian Government.[92] Construction of the Sljeme cable car, which began in early 2019 and was described by Bandić as one of his biggest projects, faced delays and increased costs. Bandić was expected to open it in March 2021.[21]

Following Bandić's death on 28 February 2021, the party's vice-president and vice-mayor Jelena Pavičić Vukičević took over the function of both mayor and party president.[93]

Health and deathEdit

On 3 July 2003, after a session of the Zagreb Assembly, Bandić requested medical assistance, stating that he had begun to feel ill during the session. The media reported that he had 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.[94]

Bandić died from a heart attack at the Clinical Hospital Sveti Duh in Zagreb on 28 February 2021, aged 65.[14][95] He was the longest serving mayor of Zagreb at the time of his death.[96]

He was buried at the Mirogoj Cemetery three days later, on 3 March. The funeral was attended by senior state officials, including Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, and ministers Tomo Medved and Gordan Grlić-Radman. Acting Mayor Jelena Pavičić Vukičević and Ljubo Jurčić, former Minister of Economy in Račan's second cabinet, addressed the funeral ceremony.[97][98] Serbian Patriarch Porfirije was expected among the speakers, but was unable to attend the funeral due to self-isolation after being in contact with a COVID-positive person.[99] His funeral was attended by more than a thousand people in total, thus violating quarantine rules that state that a maximum of 25 people can attend a funeral.[100]

Mayoral achievementsEdit

One of Bandić's best-known projects is the renovation of Ljubljanska Avenue, whose eastern stretch beginning at Svilkovići Street (later Savska Opatovina Rotary)[which?] was renamed to Zagrebačka Avenue.[101] He is also credited with the Zagreb model apartment building (Croatian: Zagrebački model stanogradnje).[102][better source needed] Radimir Čačić, another investor in the Zagreb apartment market, accused Bandić of trying to undermine the statewide POS housing projects.[102][103]

Bandić heavily criticized the state of Zagreb's transportation system which he encountered at the beginning of his mayoral career.[104] With the guidance of Zagreb traffic engineers Bandić approved the Zagrebačka Avenue widening, Homeland Bridge construction, addition of bicycle paths to the green wave system in the city center, and multi-level underground parking garages at Tuškanac, Kvaternik Square, and other locations.[citation needed] Bandić 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.[105][106]



Award or decoration Country Date Place
  Order of Friendship[107]   Russia 4 November 2018 Moscow

Honorary citizenEdit

Country City Date
  Bosnia and Herzegovina Honorary citizen of Srebrenica[108] 10 July 2009

See alsoEdit


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External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Josip Kregar
as Government Commissioner
Mayor of Zagreb
Succeeded by
Vlasta Pavić
Preceded by
Vlasta Pavić
Mayor of Zagreb
Succeeded by
Jelena Pavičić Vukičević
as Acting Mayor
Party political offices
New political party President of Labour and Solidarity Party
Succeeded by
Jelena Pavičić Vukičević
as Acting President