Croatia’s atypical president, Social Democrat Ivo Josipovic, is running for re-election Sunday with an emphasis on the more conventional promise of restoring economic health to the European Union’s newest member. Josipovic, a former law professor and classical music composer, was elected in January 2010 to the largely ceremonial presidential post on vows to fight corruption and help Croatia attain EU membership. When his country finally became the 28th member of the bloc in 2013, Josipovic celebrated by performing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” in a televised piano appearance. The 57-year-old, who enjoys a squeaky-clean political reputation, has consistently topped the three other contenders in the race in opinion polls.
His main rival is Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of the opposition conservative party, HDZ. However, with none of the candidates expected to win an outright majority in balloting Sunday, a run-off round on January 11 is anticipated.
Josipovic is appealing to voters to maintain their trust in him as he struggles to boost the country’s economy and implement institutional reforms. “I based my first mandate on achieving two important goals: social justice and Croatia’s full-fledged membership in the European Union,” he said during campaigning, before turning to fresh challenges that must be addressed. “Without reforming the state, the administration and the judiciary there will be no economic recovery,” he said.