Ex-left­ist PM wins Croa­tia pres­i­dency

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Za­greb, Croa­tia - Left­ist for­mer prime min­is­ter Zo­ran Mi­lanovic, who has pledged to make Croa­tia a tol­er­ant coun­try turn­ing the page on its wartime past, won Sun­day’s pres­i­den­tial run-off vote, de­feat­ing the in­cum­bent con­ser­va­tive leader.

Mi­lanovic took 52.7 per cent of the vote while Pres­i­dent Kolinda Grabar-Ki­tarovic, who had tried to unite a frac­tured right-wing, gar­nered 47.3 per cent, ac­cord­ing to re­sults based on vote count at nearly all polling sta­tions re­leased by the elec­toral com­mis­sion.

The sec­ond-round elec­tion was held just days af­ter Croa­tia took over the Euro­pean Union’s helm for a six-month pe­riod, which will be dom­i­nated by Brexit and the bloc's en­large­ment.

At the same time, the EU’s new­est mem­ber is strug­gling with a mass ex­o­dus of its peo­ple, cor­rup­tion and a lack­lus­tre econ­omy at home.

Grabar-Ki­tarovic cam­paigned on a slo­gan pro­mot­ing ‘real Croa­tia’, hint­ing she be­lieves the rul­ing con­ser­va­tive HDZ party that backed her was the only one who can truly rep­re­sent the coun­try.

Mi­lanovic, a So­cial Demo­cratic, called such state­ments ‘very dan­ger­ous’, and ad­vo­cated for a ‘nor­mal Croa­tia’ as a lib­eral democ­racy which pro­motes equal­ity for all cit­i­zens.

“Four mil­lion of us ... are look­ing for our place in Europe which is, de­spite all the prob­lems, the nicest place to live, the most peace­ful project in which Croa­tia must find its place and in­ter­est,” Mi­lanovic told sup­port­ers in Za­greb af­ter his vic­tory.

“Let’s be united in (our) dif­fer­ences,” the 53 year old said.

In the cam­paign Mi­lanovic stressed that the ‘wars are over’, re­fer­ring to Croa­tia's 1990s in­de­pen­dence war that re­mains an emo­tive is­sue.

Grabar-Ki­tarovic (51), the coun­try’s first woman pres­i­dent, had tried but failed to lure back hard­lin­ers who had voted for a na­tion­al­ist folk singer in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion’s first round in De­cem­ber.

She stressed unity, pa­tri­o­tism and ref­er­ences to the 1990s war in her re-elec­tion bid.

Con­ced­ing de­feat on Sun­day evening Grabar-Ki­tarovic promised a ‘civilised trans­fer’ of power to Mi­lanovic. She stressed that ‘Croa­tia needs stability’ and unity as ‘we are the strong­est when we are to­gether’.

An­a­lysts say that Mi­lanovic, who dom­i­nated in the cities, also won thanks in part to the split among the right-wingers.

The elec­tion was viewed as a key test for the rul­ing HDZ party of mod­er­ate Prime Min­is­ter Andrej Plenkovic ahead of par­lia­men­tary elec­tions later this year.

(AFP)

For­mer Croa­t­ian prime min­is­ter Zo­ran Mi­lanovic (right) ac­com­pa­nied by his wife Sanja Mu­sic Mi­lanovic casts his bal­lot, in Za­greb on Sun­day

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