Croatia’s president on Monday called a parliamentary election for November 8, a vote expected to be a tight race as the EU member grapples with a migrant influx and a weak economy. The polls will pit the current centre-left government, led by the Social Democrats (SDP), against the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party. The announcement comes as the former Yugoslav republic struggles to cope with the arrival of tens of thousands of migrants, who have been travelling through the country since mid-September in the hope of reaching western Europe. “I have decided that parliamentary elections will be held on Sunday, November 8,” said a statement from President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who was elected Croatia’s first female president in January.
In an unexpectedly tight runoff, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, a conservative challenger, won Croatia’s election on Sunday and is set to become the country’s first female president. With more than 99 percent of the ballots counted, Ms. Grabar-Kitarovic, 46, won 50.4 percent of the votes, compared with 49.6 percent for President Ivo Josipovic, the center-left incumbent, the electoral commission said. The election took place in a climate of deep pessimism about Croatia’s economy. The newest member of the European Union, Croatia has one of the weakest economies in the bloc, with an unemployment rate of nearly 20 percent and youth unemployment running at 41.5 percent. “Let’s go together,” Ms. Grabar-Kitarovic of the opposition Croatian Democratic Union said late Sunday in a speech laced with patriotic wording and interrupted by nationalist soccer chants. “A difficult job awaits us. Let’s unite. Let’s unite our patriotism, love and faith in our Croatian homeland.”
Croatia’s incumbent President Ivo Josipovic maintained a slim lead in the first round of presidential election by winning 38.48 percent of the votes, compared with his rival Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic’s 37.18 percent. In Croatian history, only three presidential elections entered into the second round. Previously, all winners of the first round secured victory in run-offs by a margin of more than 13 percent of the votes. The upcoming run-off, to be held on January 11th, the two candidates will fight for votes going for Milan Kujundzic supported by a group of right wing parties as well as Ivan Vilibor Sincic, an activist. Both Kujundzic and Sincic lost in the first round of presidential election. It is very likely that Kujundzic voters, some 6.3 percent, will support Grabar Kitarovic if they go to polling stations again. Still, it remains unclear who will attract the votes going to Sincic, who won 16.42 percent of votes in the first round.
Croatian President Ivo Josipovic failed to win re-election in the first round as NATO official Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic forced a Jan. 11 run-off on a campaign to help the Balkan country emerge from six years of recession. Josipovic, a Social Democrat, won 38.57 percent after 97 percent of vote counted, the state electoral commission said on its website yesterday. Grabar Kitarovic, running for the main opposition party, the Croatian Democratic Union, took 37.08 percent. Milan Kujundzic, supported by a group of small right-wing parties, and Ivan Sincic, an independent, garnered 6.28 percent and 16.46 percent, respectively. “Grabar Kitarovic advances to run-off as a favorite, for several reasons,” Zarko Puhovski, a political science professor at the University of Zagreb, said by phone. “The Croatian Democratic Union has traditionally been better at mobilizing its voters. She will get all the votes given to Kujundzic, and about half the votes given to Sincic.”
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.
Croatia, the European Union’s newest member, is set to vote for a new head of state December 28, with none of the four candidates vying for the largely ceremonial post seems likely to secure an outright victory according to polls. Incumbent Ivo Josipovic, supported by the ruling Social Democrats, is seen as a frontrunner even though the government’s failure to halt economic decline has eroded the party’s popularity. Josipovic has campaigned on a platform proposing constitutional changes, saying that a more decentralized and democratic country is needed to help the economy find a way out its sixth year of recession. “Today we have an entire generation of young people who are no longer concerned with asking whose side one was on in 1941 or in 1991, they are concerned with where to get jobs. I want to learn from them, I want to live with them, and I want to see us giving them a future together. Let’s not forget that we have merely borrowed Croatia from future generations, and it is our obligation to solidify the foundations of the country, and without doing that, we cannot find a way out of the economic crisis,” Josipovic told a rally in Zagreb in December, referring to political divisions in Croatian society over the legacy of World War II and the independence war of the 1990s.
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.