The liberal incumbent and a conservative rival are heading for a showdown in a runoff presidential election in Croatia, according to the partial count of the Sunday poll, held amid severe economic woes in EU’s newest member. Current President Ivo Josipovic, who is backed by the center-left government, held a slight lead with some 39 percent over opposition candidate Kolinda Grabar-Kitarevic at around 36 percent, early results released by the election authorities showed. Two other candidates were far behind. Since no one took more than half of the votes, a runoff will be held in two weeks. Analysts said no major change was expected with all the ballots counted.
The presidency in Croatia is a largely ceremonial post, but the vote is seen as a test for the center-left government which faces criticism over bad economy more than one year after the country joined the European Union.
Croatia has one of the weakest economies in the bloc, with unemployment at nearly 20 percent and a six-year recession.
Voters, who braved a blizzard to cast ballots early Sunday, said issues such as unemployment and the fight against corruption would be decisive.