Zoran Milanovic, a former prime minister of Croatia, won the second round of presidential election on Sunday (Jan. 5). With 99% of the vote counted, Milanovic, of the Social Democrats (SDP), had 52.7% while President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), and the country’s first female head of state when she won five years ago, had 47.3%.
The turnout was about 55%, according to the State Election Commission. There are 3.8 million voters in Croatia, a country of 4.2 million. The two parties have dominated the political landscape since Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and are both striving for the upper hand in parliamentary elections in December. A total of 11 candidates competed in the first round of presidential election on Dec 22, 2019.
"Thanks to all the volunteers, all of you who supported me during the past six months,"
Milanovic, wrote on Facebook.
The 53-year old has promised to turn the page on the country’s wartime past, and advocated for Croatia becoming a “normal country” during his campaign.
Milanovic won the most votes in four largest cities in Croatia, with Grabar-Kitarovic winning in rural areas, as well as votes from the diaspora. Grabar-Kitarovic congratulated Milanovic on his victory. "I am giving my hand out to Zoran Milanovic to show the voters how a peaceful transition of the government looks like," she said.
Croatia’s president cannot veto laws but still formally commands the army and represents the country abroad. It is a largely ceremonial post compared to the prime minister, but is generally seen more as a moral authority and upholder of the constitution.
The president will be a visible figure during Croatia’s EU presidency. Croatia took the helm of the European Union for a six-month period on January 1 and members of the European Commission are due to visit Zagreb on Thursday (Jan. 9).
The term will likely to be highlighted by the post-Brexit fallout and the drive for EU membership by other Western Balkan nations. Croatia was the last country to join the bloc, in 2013, and this is the first time it has held the presidency.
The Croatian president is elected once every five years. The next president's five-year term will begin in February.
Withe reporting by news agencies