Ivan Dikov (European Views) | Leftist Zoran Milanovic, a former Prime Minister, has been elected President of Croatia, beating closely right-wing incumbent Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. Croatia, which was the last country to join the European Union back in 2013, has just assumed the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU for the first time in its history.
Milanovic, who was Croatia’s Prime Minister in 2011 – 2016, won 52.7% of the votes in the runoff of the presidential election on Sunday vs. 47.3% for Grabar-Kitarovic. “Thanks to everyone who supported me, who didn’t support me, thanks to the all candidates, and to Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. It was a long, tough campaign,” Milanovic said on Sunday night, as cited by Croatia Week.
“I’ll be a president with character that will always oppose violence, injustice and protect the weak… No one in Croatia in which I will be president will feel like a second-class citizen,” the President-elect had stated earlier. Milanovic has thus become the fifth President of Croatia since the former Yugoslav republic became independent in 1991.
He is second nominee of the largest mainstream leftist formation, the Social Democratic Party (led by him in 2007 – 2016), to hold the Croatian Presidency, which is largely ceremonial. In the first round of the presidential election in Croatia on December 22, 2019, which featured a total of eleven contenders, Milanovic won 29.6% vs. 26.4% for Grabar-Kitarovic of the ruling rightist Croatian Democratic Union.
Sunday’s runoff saw a turnout of 55%, with about 52,000 of the total of 2,053,000 votes cast coming from the Croatian diaspora abroad. 53-year-old Zoran Milanovic is going to be sworn in as President of Croatia in February 2020 for a five year term. Parliamentary elections in the Balkan country are set for December 2020.
The official ceremony marking the start of Croatia’s EU Presidency is scheduled for January 9, 2020.