The people of Croatia are preparing to vote for a new head of state on Suday with no fewer than 12 candidates vying for the post.
The winner will inherit a country hit hard by the global economic crisis – a country told to step up its fight against corruption if it is to join the EU.
According to opinion polls, Social Democrat Ivo Josipovic, a university graduate in music, is most likely to win the chance to take on that task. The president has a special moral and political authority according to Josipovic who has pledged to clean things up.
Fellow frontfunners include Nadan Vidosevic, a wealthy businessman dubbed the George Clooney of the campaign for his film star good looks. A renegade from the ruling conservative Croatian Democratic Union, running as an independent, he too says it is crucial to rid Croatia of corruption.
Critics of another leading candidate, Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic, claim he wants the ceremonial post of president to have immunity from corruption charges. Bandic, who was expelled from the Social Democrats, denies this.
Confusion though over how many people are eligible to vote has done nothing to ease corruption fears.
A pensioner in Zagreb slammed politicians.
“Millions are spent and not millions of kuna but millions of euro, millions and billions. How is that possible? I can’t get 100 extra kuna from someone when I need it and they get millions and steal it. Wait a minute!”
“They were all in power before and they are to blame for where we are today,” said a man in the Croatian capital.
The winner will replace veteran reformer Stipe Mesic whose second five-year mandate expires in February.