2014-12-29 09:20:00

Candidates face run off in Croatian presidential election

(Vatican Radio) Croatia’s incumbent President Ivo Josipovic, who is backed by the center-left government, has taken a slight lead in the first round of elections for head of state. However results of Sunday's presidential poll show that he will face a conservative candidate in a run-off round in two weeks’ time.

Enthusiastic supporters shouted his name as initial results showed Josipovic, a mild-mannered middle aged composer and law expert, won Sunday's ballot with just roughly 38.5 percent of the vote.

He will face opposition candidate Kolinda Grabar-Kitarevic in a second round of voting on January 11, as she was only slightly behind with around 37.1 percent. 

Yet his victory came as a boost for the center-left government, which supports the president. It had come under mounting pressure for failing to improve the economy of the European Union's newest member state. 


Heavily Catholic Croatia is still suffering under 20 percent unemployment and widespread corruption, one year after it joined the EU. 

However Josipovic told supporters that his victory shows that despite the difficulties Croatians still trust his policies. He thanked Croatia adding "we won the first round, and we will win the second round."

Josipovic also thanked voters "who braved a blizzard to cast ballots" since early Sunday. He said he won because his program offers "more democracy, more human rights and more tolerance." Those policies, he claims, "can build a modern economy for the 21st century with less unemployment and respect for the values of our tradition of Croatia's society."


Yet, his main rival Grabar-Kitarevic, a former foreign minister, ambassador to Washington and senior official of the NATO military alliance, has not given up hope. She told supporters that "Croatia has shown it wants change" after six years of recession and that the tight race shows that this is just the beginning ahead of the run-off ballot in two weeks’ time.

Analysts say that her center-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party is expected to beat the ruling Social Democrats in next year’s parliamentary elections.

Two other candidates were far behind in Sunday's vote for president. It’s a largely ceremonial but influential post in this nation of over four million people. In Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic words: the president "is carrying a heavy burden of the government, which is doing a tough job in a tough time."


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