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Croatia: Zoran Milanovic wins first round of presidential election

Sunday, December 22nd, 2019
11:40 p.m.

Opposition candidate and social democrat Zoran Milanovic won the first round of the presidential election in Croatia. He got almost 30 percent of the votes almost fully counted at the time on Sunday, said the election commission in Zagreb. He thus put incumbent Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in second place. The president, who comes from the conservative government party HDZ, won almost 27 percent of the vote.

  

Since none of the candidates won 50 percent of the vote in the first attempt, a runoff election on January 5 will decide between the two best places. In most surveys, Grabar-Kitarovic was just ahead of Milanovic.

  
The folk musician and independent nationalist Miroslav Skoro had originally been given good chances. He ended up in third place with a good 24 percent of the votes. Eight other candidates couldn't keep up with the trio.

  
Inefficient governance and massive emigration

  The head of state in Croatia has ceremonial powers above all because the government is run by the Prime Minister. The election is also an indicator of the strength of the right and left camps before the parliamentary elections next year. The youngest EU member country will also take over the presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2020. Croatia has been in the EU since 2013 and in July this year set an important course on the way to future euro membership.

  
Issues such as inefficient governance and massive emigration played a major role in the election campaign. Grabar-Kitarovic had started with the incumbent president's bonus. However, their demeanor, which critics found pandering, and their sometimes vague promises cost them sympathy. Also, under pressure from the populist Skoro, she struck increasingly nationalist tones.

  
"The wars are over"

  The social democrat Milanovic, in turn, promised "normalcy" in view of the "sham debates" led by the political right about national history. Croatia must finally leave the war against Serbia, which brought death and devastation, but also independence, to the country from 1991 to 1995.

  

In the election center of the Social Democrats there was a party atmosphere late on Sunday evening. "We are moving into the second round," Milanovic called into the enthusiastic crowd. "But we are not going to war, the wars are over. We are going into a civilized competition. May the better one win. And I am."

  At the president's election party, disappointment was felt that Grabar-Kitarovic only achieved second place. "She will win in the second round," said Milijan Brkic, a member of the HDZ board. "And it is true that the HDZ has to change its policy and get closer to the people."

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