Polls opened in Croatia on Sunday in elections for the country's third president since its independence in 1991, with the winner expected to lead the former Yugoslav republic into the European Union.
Croatians are choosing a successor to popular centrist Stipe Mesic, who stands down in February after serving the maximum two five-year terms.
The opinion polls show that the winner will be decided in a run-off with none of the 12 candidates likely to secure more than 50 percent of the vote.
Ivo Josipovic of the main opposition Social Democrats (SDP) is virtually certain to enter the January 10 run-off, according to the polls which give him an average lead of 15 percentage points over his opponents.
The 52-year-old legal expert and classical music composer is likely to face either controversial Zagreb mayor Milan Bandic or businessman Nadan Vidosevic.
All leading candidates back Croatia's efforts to join the EU, a goal Zagreb aims to achieve during the new president's mandate, in 2012.
Voting, which also includes Croats in neighbouring Bosnia, ends at 1800 GMT, with exit polls on television immediately afterwards. Official results are due five hours later.
The president has a say in foreign policy, security and defence, but no power to veto legislation.
Last Mod: 27 Aralık 2009, 11:59