Incumbent Josipovic, Grabar-Kitarovic to meet in Croatian presidential election runoff

By bne IntelliNews December 29, 2014

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Croatian President Ivo Josipovic and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the candidate for the main opposition party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), grabbed most of the votes in the first round of the presidential elections on December 28 and will meet in the January 11 runoff, according to preliminary results from the State Electoral Commission (DIP). The gap between the two candidates is narrower than polls had predicted and suggests Josipovic's support in the country, which is nearing the end of its sixth consecutive year of recession, has faded.

Josipovic, backed by the ruling Social Democratic Party (SDP), narrowly beat Grabar-Kitarovic, managing to gather 687,558 votes, data released by the DIP after 99.98% of polling stations had reported their results shows. The figure is equal to 38.46% of all 1.76mn valid votes. Grabar-Kitarovic came second with 665,309 voters backing her candidacy, or some 37.22%.

In third place was 25-year old Ivan Sincic, supported by an association fighting forced evictions, with 16.42%, while Milan Kujundzic, the founder of the Croatian Dawn party, managed to gain only 6.3% of votes cast in the presidential race.

Following the announcement of the preliminary results, Sincic said he will not support either of the two candidates in the runoff and asked his voters to cast their votes according “to their conscience”, Hina news agency reported. Kujundzic has not indicated to his supporters how they should vote on January 11.

Josipovic took office in February 2010 after winning the second round of the 2010 presidential elections with 60.26% of the vote, defeating independent candidate Milan Bandic. His electoral programme for his second five-year term as president is based on constitutional changes. If adopted, the new Constitution would introduce changes to the voting method for general elections and referendum organisation, as well as a new territorial organisation of the country.

By contrast, Grabar-Kitarovic’s electoral platform is mainly focused on economic growth as key to development. She has pledged to introduce lower taxes for businesses, supports social stability and has declares no tolerance on corruption. She is also a defender of national security and war veterans' rights. Grabar-Kitarovic has served as assistant secretary general for public diplomacy at NATO. Prior to this, she was a European integration minister and a minister for foreign affairs and European integration.

The presidential elections also served as a test for Croatia’s political parties before the 2015 general elections. The lengthy recession in the Adriatic country and lack of optimism about the year to come have eroded support for the SDP. Croatia’s central bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission all expect the country’s economy to return to modest growth in 2015, although some economists have already taken a more skeptical stance and are predicting a seventh straight year of economic decline.


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