The Social Democrat and left wing coalition backed incumbent, Ivo Josipovic, and the conservative rival backed by the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ and its coalition, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, are heading for a showdown in a run-off presidential election on January 11 in Croatia. The latest unofficial results published (1.00 a.m. on 29 December Croatia time) by the Croatian Electoral Commission, with 99.89% votes counted, place Ivo Josipovic at 38.48%, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic at 37.18%, Ivan Sincic at 16.43% and Milan Kujundzic at 6.30% of votes counted. With such close results it seems impossible to predict the winner among the top two candidates at the second round elections on January 11, which must be held given that no candidate passed the 50% mark in first round held on 28 December.
The voter turnout at around 47% or 1,786,670 can be considered as large, however notably lower than in elections held during the era of Franjo Tudjman in 1990’s and somewhat lower than in last elections of 2009/10. One polling place was closed due to weather conditions and serious snow-blizzards. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic led in 13 districts with Croatia and in the diaspora while Ivo Josipovic led in 7 districts and the city of Zagreb. Croatian media reports that the biggest surprise in this first round of elections is the higher than expected voter confidence given to Ivan Sincic, a Eurosceptic, but also, lower than expected given to Milan Kujundzic, right-wing politician.
Grabar-Kitarovic, assistant secretary general for the NATO on leave without pay, and a former foreign minister of Croatia, has throughout her campaign called for closer cooperation with the government on economic issues and often reiterated the role of the President to hold the government to account, the role at which Josipovic has failed miserably during his current mandate as President of Croatia.
Croatian news agency HINA reported that soon after the announcement of the above unofficial results Grabar-Kitarovic congratulated all the candidates, especially Milan Kujundzic and Ivan Sincic and turned to “Josipovic voters” telling them that they too are a part of her program “For a Better Croatia”:
” You and the whole of Croatia deserve a better and a more prosperous Croatia that believes in its own resources and in its own people,” she said and pointed out that the voters who gave their votes to Kujundzic and Sincic have shown that they want a better and a more just Croatia that cares about every single person. She said that there will be no more divisions into “ours and theirs” after 11 January and the togetherness championed by Croatia’s first president Franjo Tudjman in 1990’s will be revived.
Soon after the unofficial election results were published Ivo Josipovic also addressed the Croatian citizens saying that he won in the first round and will win in the second.
“…We have won because my program offers a different Croatia to the one we have today, it offers one with more democracy, with more human rights, the one that opens new perspectives and the one that builds the economy which will not have so many unemployed, and the one in which the traditions and the values of Croatian society will be respected,” he said.
He emphasised that the motto of his politics is justice! And yet, he has the gall to brand all members of his opposition as those who have thieved Croatia even though only a handful of individual past HDZ government leaders/government functionaries have been indicted or brought to justice for corruption and – even though a handful of Social Democrat aligned politicians are currently entangled in court proceedings for corruption or investigations for corruption!
The man and the politician – Josipovic – is a joke! He tries to reassure the public of justice and yet in this important case he blatantly practices – none!
He is a lawyer by trade and yet paints everyone in an organisation guilty of acts secretly committed only by one or few!
And one must ask: what in the world has Josipovic been doing the past five years as President if only now he promises justice and greater human rights and more employment…? He did, after all, base his 2010 campaign on the same slogan “Justice for Croatia”!
The coming two weeks are bound to shape the results of showdown run-off second round voting 11 January. The results between the two leading candidates are too close and the scales could tip over either way. Depending on how strong the need for change is etched on voters’ minds and hearts. Josipovic’s 38.48% first round result certainly suggests that the need for change is strong as it is actually this need for change in Croatian leadership that is the first round winner – not Josipovic, as he would like to think. While Stjepan Mesic (ex-president) has said during Josipovic’s post-vote gathering that Sincic “can freely ask his voters to support Josipovic in the second round” one wonders as to how much a single candidate or two (Sincic/Kujundzic) can actually influence the decisive vote on 11 January. By all indications these Croatian voters are voters for change, non-aligned with the two top candidates (Josipovic and Grabar-Kitarovic) in the first round of voting and it will be up to the candidates to convince these “runaway” voters to vote to their advantage. Indeed, a strong impetus must be maintained in order to encourage these voters to vote at all.
When it comes to voters living abroad, the diaspora, there is no doubt that both Stjepan Mesic and Ivo Josipovic have managed to solidify the atrocious situation in which the right to vote has been alarmingly diminished by the reduction of the number of polling places where émigrés can vote. The polling places have been limited to diplomatic-consular missions’ addresses and this has resulted in the sad and enraging effects where diplomatic-consular staff are/were unwilling to ensure fair access to polling places by organising more than one in a country or state (depending on the number of missions). As there is no postal or electronic voting, the majority of those with a right to vote have been kept out of voting – it was only during the times of Franjo Tudjman, 1990’s, that polling places for all elections for Croatia (parliamentary and presidential) were organised in optimally adequate places accessible to a greater majority of voters, e.g. Clubs or other organisations where émigrés largely gravitated to. After that time, the Croatian diplomatic-consular missions across the world had ensured that the number of polling places was reduced to an absolute minimum and thus, not at all reasonably or fairly accessible to most. One of the President’s key roles is associated with decisions regarding the operational matters of diplomatic-consular missions abroad – and here too Josipovic has failed those Croatians citizens abroad! He talks of justice and rights but so easily takes, obstructs or minimises both! What is even worse is that polling places in the diaspora are construed as matters of state authorities rather than a matter of the Electoral Commission, which in legal terms is an independent (of government or presidency) body. Croatian democracy, if it’s to survive and evolve further, is so desperately ready for change in leadership! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)