Croatia president heads for run-off with rival

Croatia president heads for run-off with rival

Sunday, December 28, 2014 10:30 pm

Croatian president, Ivo Josipovic: goes for run-off on 11 January

Croatian president, Ivo Josipovic: goes for run-off on 11 January

Croatia’s President Ivo Josipovic and his conservative rival on Sunday headed for a January run-off following a tight first round vote in a country battling a severe economic crisis.

Centre-left incumbent Josipovic and his main challenger Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic will face off on January 11 after both failed to win more than 50 percent outright in the first round of voting for the largely ceremonial post.

In a neck-and-neck race, Josipovic garnered 38.56 percent of the vote compared to Grabar-Kitarovic’s 37.08 percent, the electoral commission said in near complete results based on 95 percent of polling stations.

Bad weather and snow that hit most of the European Union’s youngest member overnight did not affect turnout which was 47.11 percent.

It was some three percent more than the presidential elections held five years ago.

The soft-spoken Josipovic — the popular third president of the former Yugoslav republic since its independence in 1991 — is a member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the main partner in the ruling coalition.

The 57-year-old former law professor, who won office on an anti-corruption ticket, Josipovic famously played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” on piano when Croatia joined the European Union in 2013 hoping membership would revive its flagging economy.

But the tourism-reliant economy of the small Adriatic nation of 4.2 million remains one of the EU’s weakest after six years of recession.

Unemployment is close to 20 percent, half of the country’s youth are jobless and public debt is close to 80 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Grabar-Kitarovic, 47, who represents moderates within HDZ, is a former foreign and European affairs minister and an ex-NATO assistant secretary general.

During the campaign she slammed Josipovic’s lack of initiative in tackling Croatia’s economic woes.

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