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Croatia votes for new president
London, Jan 10 (Agencies):
Published on 10 Jan. 2010 11:51 PM IST
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Croatia is voting in elections for a new president. The first round of the election in December was won by Social Democrat Ivo Josipovic, but he failed to get an outright majority. Opinion polls suggest he has a lead over his challenger in the run-off election - the current mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandic. Croatia’s president has little power to direct policy, so this election has focused on personality more than ideas. And the difference is stark. On the left, Mr Josipovic: a mild-mannered classical music composer and doctor of law, credited for his untarnished background but criticised for lacking charisma. And on the right, Mr Bandic: a long-distance runner who says he is close to the people, but has been hit by corruption allegations. Corruption has been the dominant theme in the campaign, with Croatia determined to clean up its image in order to gain EU membership by 2012. Also of concern to Croatian voters is the impact of the recession. The country’s economy is expected to shrink by almost 6% in 2009 and show barely any growth this year. Unemployment stands stubbornly high at around 16%. There is a general mood of public disenchantment with politics in Croatia, leading to the lowest ever turnout in the first round of this presidential election at just 44%. But both candidates have led an increasingly aggressive end to the campaign and have appealed to voters both in Croatia and the over 250,000 Croats in Bosnia to cast their ballot. They will almost certainly be electing the head of state of the European Union’s 28th member.

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