Croatia’s opposition conservative Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has won the country’s presidential run-off following a tight competition with incumbent President Ivo Josipovic, partial results show.
Grabar-Kitarovic, a former foreign minister and an ex-assistant secretary general of NATO, garnered 50.44 percent of the vote on Sunday, showed results based on 80 percent of the ballots counted.
Her rival, center-left candidate Josipovic, won 49.56 percent of the vote, according to the results.
The final results are expected to be released later in the day. If Grabar-Kitarovic’s lead is confirmed, the 46-year-old politician of the center-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party will become Croatia’s first female president.
The presidential post in Croatia is largely ceremonial, however, the president still has a say in foreign policy and intelligence matters and is the head of the country’s armed forces.
The election came at a time when the ruling center-left government is accused of failing to tackle the country’s six-year long recession and is also suffering from a huge public debt. The deficit is close to 80 percent of gross domestic product.
In addition, Croatia is struggling with a high unemployment rate of close to 20 percent and a soaring youth jobless rate, with half of the country’s youth out of work.
Croatia joined the EU in July 2013, becoming the bloc’s 28th member almost two decades after it declared independence from the former Yugoslavia Republic – a move that sparked the bloody civil war of 1991-1995.
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