Croatia Prepares for Presidential Runoff

Croatians will vote in a presidential runoff election this Sunday, which polls and analysts indicate will be won by jurist and classical music composer Ivo Josipovic of the main opposition Social Democratic Party, SDP.

Josipovic, who has campaigned under the promise of “new justice” for Croatia, will face populist independent candidate and veteran mayor of Zagreb Milan Bandic, whom media have repeatedly accused of nepotism and corruption.

Josipovic won the first round on 26 December with a comfortable advantage of some 17 percentage points over Bandic. Latest opinion polls have also placed him ahead with over 55 per cent.

While the polls have not taken into account some 400.000 expatriate Croats, 300.000 of who live in Bosnia, who are likely to support Bandic, most analysts believe that Josipovic is poised to win.

“I believe that the election has already been decided and that Josipovic cannot lose,” political analyst Zarko Puhovski told Balkan Insight.

“Over recent days it has been proven that nearly all institutions support the election of Josipovic and Bandic has been left on his own to act as a resistance movement against everyone,” he added.

Still Bandic has put up a formidable fight. The Zagreb mayor, who was kicked out of SDP after deciding to run for president thereby ignoring the party’s choice of candidate, has led an aggressive campaign by stoking fears that Croatia would be back under communist rule under Josipovic and turning to the influential Catholic Church for support.

In contrast, Josipovic’s promise to clear the country of corruption and cronyism has won the backing of urban elites, with a group of rap musicians recording a song and a video clip to support him.

However, both Bandic and Josipovic want their country to join the European Union by 2012.

The runoff winner will replace veteran reformer Stjepan Mesic, whose second five-year term expires in February.

Voting begins at 7 am (0600 GMT) on Sunday and ends 12 hours later.

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