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Croatia - Presidential Election

Social Democratic Candidate, Ivo Josipovic easily wins the first round of the Croatian Presidential Election

Social Democratic Candidate, Ivo Josipovic easily wins the first round of the Croatian Presidential Election

28/12/2009 - Results

Ivo Josipovic, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate won the first round of the presidential election on 27th December in Croatia. The official opposition candidate won 32.84% of the vote ahead of Milan Bandic, Mayor of Zagreb, excluded from the SDP when he announced that he was running for the Presidency of the Republic with the support of the Democratic Farmers' Party (HDSS); he won 14.84%. The Democratic Union (in government at present) candidate (HDZ), Andrija Hebrang came third with 12.01%, a better score than forecast by the polls. He is ahead of dissident HDZ candidate, Nadan Vidosevic, who has the support of the Coastal Regions of Primorje and Gorski Kotar (PGS) with 11.33%. The eight other candidates won under 10%.
Ivo Josipovic and Milan Bandic will face each other in the second round on 10th January next.
Turnout rose to 33.8%, an honourable figure considering the unusual post-Christmas date selected for the election.

Ivo Josipovic took advantage of the decline in power of the government led by Jadranska Kosor (HDZ), who has had a rough ride because of several financial scandals and the discontent of the Croats who are severely affected by the economic crisis and the decline in their living standards. The unemployment rate lies at 16.1% of the working population (November 2009 figure) and economic growth declined by 5.8% in the third quarter of 2009 (it had already contracted by 6.5% in the first six months). In 2010 the GDP is due to rise to 0.5%. The Social Democratic candidate cashed in on his reputation for integrity. He said he is ready to fight against corruption and organized crime. This theme is the crucial point of negotiations between Croatia and the EU, with Brussels setting the fight against corruption as a major condition for Zagreb's integration; it is expecting the next Head of State to support the government's work in this direction.
Paradoxically Ivo Josipovic has gained ground because of his low popularity and his lack of experience, which have to helped to distinguish him from better known political leaders.

"Croatia needs a different president, someone who is firm, competent and free," declared Milan Bandic on the announcement of the results. The popular Mayor of Zagreb, former representative of the SDP's rightwing, often accused of being involved in financial scandals (without any court case ever being brought against him), is due to continue his atypical campaign making the most of his image as an outsider. During the campaign in the first round he refused to take part in any TV debates with the other candidates preferring to broadcast advertising about himself.
Milan Bandic, who comes from Bosnia-Herzegovina can also expect to attract the vote of the diaspora living in Croatia's neighbouring State (around 270,000 people). Hence in the first round he won 48.61% of the votes of Croats living abroad against 5.28% for Ivo Josipovic (Andrija Hebrang won 23.24%, since the diaspora traditionally votes for the HDZ). The vote of Croats living abroad is a major if not decisive stake when results are tight. The previous presidential election on 2nd and 16 January 2005 showed this: 77, 578 Croats from abroad turned out to appoint the Head of State i.e. 3.5% of the 2.2 million voters who went to ballot.

"The Croatian President does not have any power that enables him to have political influence. But the election of a candidate suspected of corruption would be embarrassing for the country," declared political analyst Davor Djenero. "The next President will lead a country that is an EU member for at least half of his term in office, so we would really like to hear what the candidates have to say in terms of their vision for the country in a context such as this," stressed political analyst Ivan Grdesic.
"I'm sorry that Croatia did not join the EU during my mandate. It will be the work of the next President and the government," declared outgoing Head of State Stjepan Mesic. Indeed the man elected on 10th January next and the 3rd Croatian president will be responsible for finally turning the page on the 1990's, on transition and on the post-war period to take Croatia into the 21st century.

The polls undertaken before the 1st round all forecast Ivo Josipovic winner against Milan Bandic. The most recent poll on 23rd December credited the SDP candidate with 58.2% of the vote against 32.2% for Milan Bandic.

Source : Croatian Electoral Commission
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
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