Croatians vote for president in second round

Croats voted for a new president on Sunday in the second round of presidential elections amid waves of corruption and economic meltdown.

Croatians vote for president in second round

Croats voted for a new president on Sunday in the second round of presidential elections amid waves of corruption and economic meltdown.

Social Democrat Ivo Josipovic, a 52-year-old law professor and composer who convincingly beat 11 candidates in the first round on Dec. 27, has held a solid lead in opinion polls over Zagreb mayor Milan Bandic.

The last published polls gave Josipovic 52 to 55 percent of the vote, compared with up to 45 percent for Bandic, but the Zagreb mayor who is running as an independent has refused to throw in the towel.

Bandic, who was expelled from Josipovic's SDP party in November when he announced he would run for president, hopes to woo supporters of the ruling conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), whose candidate did not make it into the run-off.

The devoutly religious mayor also has the backing of Croatia's powerful Catholic Church, but he will still have to mobilize a large number of undecided voters to bridge the gap with Josipovic.

Both candidates are running on a similar platform, promising to crack down on corruption -- one of the key remaining hurdles to Croatia's entry into the European Union and a popular theme in the country which has plunged into a deep economic crisis.

Croatia hopes to join the bloc by 2012, putting it squarely within the new president's five-year mandate.

Polling stations close at 1800 GMT with exit polls due immediately afterwards and official results expected five hours later.

The president will succeed veteran reformer Stjepan Mesic, whose second five-year term ends in February, and will have limited powers over foreign policy, defence and the intelligence services but none over the economy or legislation.


Agencies

Last Mod: 10 Ocak 2010, 17:52
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