After nearly all votes from the Croatian presidential elections had been counted late on Sunday, the country’s electoral commission announced that a run-off will have to be called between the leftist opposition candidate and the long-time mayor of Zagreb.
Preliminary results of the presidential elections held on Sunday put Ivo Josipovic the leftist opposition Social Democratic Party, SDP, candidate ahead of the other 11 candidates with 32.4 per cent of the vote.
Second in the race was populist Milan Bandic, the veteran mayor of Zagreb, who took a 14.8 per cent share.
Since neither candidate won the 50 per cent of votes required for outright victory, Croatia’s new president will be decided in a January 10 run-off between the top two.
“We did this together knowing that more work is still ahead of us,” Josipovic said after the preliminary results had been announced.
“I call on you to vote for justice and for a better, more just Croatia, for light and not for darkness,” the law professor and classical music composer added.
Bandic, who was kicked out of SDP when he decided to run for president despite the party having chosen Josipovic as its candidate, said that Croatia needed “a different, strong-minded and capable president.”
Bandic called on voters not to embrace “a puppet” of SDP president Zoran Milanovic.
Preliminary results showed that the candidate of the ruling Croat Democratic Union, HDZ, Andrija Hebrang had won just 12 percent of the vote, indicating Croatians’ growing disenchantment with their conservative government.
The winner of the run-off will replace veteran reformer Stjepan Mesic, whose second five-year term expires in February.
Just 44.6 per cent of the 4.4 million registered voters cast their ballots in this, Croatia’s fifth presidential elections, following independence in 1991.
Mesic who said he regretted that Croatia has not joined the European Union during his 10-year tenure also voiced disappointment with low voter turnout and blamed it on the failure of the candidates’ messages to “inspire voters…[and] provide a vision for Croatia in the 21st century.”