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    Croatian president and presidential candidate Ivo Josipovic (C) cuts a cake with his supporters after the unofficial results in the headquarters in Zagreb

    Croatians Vote in Close Presidential Run Off As Economy Falters

    © REUTERS / Antonio Bronic
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    Croatians are voting in the second round of the presidential poll, a test for the party before parliamentary elections in late 2015.

    MOSCOW, January 11 (Sputnik) – Croatians are heading to polling stations to determine the country’s next leader, as the newest member of the European Union is struggling with its economy, AFP reports.

    A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during the presidential election in Zagreb
    © REUTERS / Antonio Bronic
    The incumbent president, Ivo Josipovic, nominated by the ruling coalition, and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the main opposition party, are vying for the largely ceremonial post. Croatia’s leader oversees foreign policy and is the commander in chief of the armed forces. However, the parliament handles domestic issues.

    Josipovic, 57, a former law professor and classical music composer, secured 38.5 percent of the vote in the first round two weeks ago. 37 percent supported Grabar-Kitarovic, 46, Croatia’s former foreign minister, who also served as Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy at NATO.

    The newest member of the European Union has struggled with recession, now in its sixth year. Croatia’s GDP in 2013 fell by 0.9 percent while unemployment in the country is on the rise. It increased from 11.8 percent in 2010 to 17.7 percent in 2013, according to the World Bank.

    Grabar-Kitarovic insists Josipovic, whom she called "incapable and cold-hearted government’s accomplice" according to AFP, is responsible for the economic situation.

    "To be a president one… has to speak and not remain silent… to call the government to account," she said in a recent television debate, as quoted by the news agency. "But this is exactly what you have not been doing during the past five years."

    Josipovic reiterated that Grabar-Kitarovic was to blame. "We are in a crisis and we now know why… You were in the government that was robbing Croatia, the government of Ivo Sanader," he said, referring to the country’s former prime minister. In 2012, Ivo Sanader, who once headed the HDZ, was sentenced to ten years in prison for corruption.

    The poll is viewed as an important test before the parliamentary elections in late 2015.


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