02/01/2005 - Results - 2nd round
As expected Stjepan Mesic was re-elected for a five year mandate as President of the Republic of Croatia on 16th January during the second round of the presidential election. The outgoing President did better than the opinion polls had forecast winning 66% of the vote versus 33% for his rival Jadranska Kosor (Democratic Community, HDZ) who improved her first round result 2nd January by 13 points.
The participation rate rose to 51.13% - identical to the one recorded during the first round.
It was clear that the Croats had listened to the President, who, during the entire electoral campaign advised them "not to put all their eggs into one basket. To have the power lying in the hands of the same party would mean a step backwards and will not take Croatia closer to the European criteria", warned Stjepan Mesic. "I am proud of how mature Croat democracy now is and that has been recognised by Europe and the entire world", declared the new President after his victory. Stjepan Mesic, who is very popular amongst his fellow countrymen and is both a loyal and courageous defender of democratic values, has worked hard towards breaking the international isolation into which his authoritarian predecessor Franjo Tudjman had driven Croatia. He travelled to Israel in October 2001 to open a new chapter in the history between the two States; their relations had been tense due to Franjo Tudjman's refusal to admit Croatia's role in the extermination of thousands of Jews during the Second World War.
Stjepan Mesic, who is seventy years old and a qualified lawyer, was the last President of the now dismembered Federation of Yugoslavia; he started his political career in the 1960's occupying a seat in the Croatian Parliament. In 1971 he took part in the "Croat Spring", a protest movement in which the Croats rose up against Serb domination over all the centres of government within what was then Yugoslavia. Stjepan Mesic's commitment meant a year's imprisonment and exclusion from political activities. In 1990 he became the secretary of the Democratic Community (HDZ) led by nationalist Franjo Tudjman. He left the party in 1994 following serious disagreements with its leader. Stjepan Mesic denounced the fraudulent privatisations and Croatia's involvement in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992-1995). On 7th February 2000, he succeeded Franjo Tudjman as head of State, the latter having led Croatia from the date of its independence in 1991 until his death in December 1999. We should remember that in 2003 Stjepan Mesic sided with France and Germany in opposition against the Anglo-American military intervention in Iraq. Following recommendations made by the European Union he also refused to sign an agreement with the USA that aimed to grant immunity to Americans who were prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
With 33% of the vote the Social Affairs Minister achieved a result close to that won by her party during the last general elections on 23rd November 2003 (33.9%). "This result confirms our party's unity and also that it is the leading party in Croatia", emphasised the head of government Ivo Sanader on the announcement of the results. "We faced a candidate who had the advantage of already being President and who is undoubtedly very popular in Croatia. Jadranska Kosor showed that she could rise to the challenge of this election", added the head of government. "I congratulate you, President Mesic", declared the unfortunate candidate admitting defeat.
On 17th March next the European Union is to start negotiations for official membership with Croatia. However this will include strict criteria including full co-operation by Zagreb with the International Criminal Court for former Yugoslavia in The Hague (TPI), the return of tens of thousands of Serb refugees, who fled the country during the Serb-Croat War 1991-1995 and finally the arrest and transfer to The Hague of General Ante Gotovina, who has been on the run since he was charged by the ICC in 2001. The Croatian officer is wanted for his role in the massacre of at least fifty Croat Serbs at the end of the Serb-Croat War. Stjepan Mesic has always declared that, "Croatia is the last country where Ante Gotovina would try to hide since everyone is interested in his capture", maintaining that his country should provide proof within a month's time that the fugitive general is not in Croatia. "We must be able to show that we are doing our utmost to find where Ante Gotovina is; our services must do their best and the EU and the ICC will have confidence in us in the end", emphasised the new President.
"I am confident that the government of Croatia will continue to continue to work hard towards establishing total co-operation with the TPI", declared the European Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn, at the end of a meeting with the Prime Minister Ivo Sanader. "If this is not the case then we shall not be able to start membership negotiations on 17th March next, which would be a great disappointment for everyone", he added. An assessment of Zagreb's co-operation is to take place in a few weeks time.
"Today we are moving rapidly towards Europe. We must prove that we are united and have a national consensus in order to fulfil our objectives", declared Stjepan Mesic on the announcement of the results. "Since I am the one who opened Croatia to the world I believe I am able to do more in continuing along this path. Towards the end of my new mandate Croatia will certainly be admitted as a new member of the European Union", added the new President of the Republic who believes that his country might join EU25 by 2008. Croatia would then become the second Republic of former Yugoslavia to integrate the European Union.