A conservative populist become Croatia’s first female president Sunday after beating the center-left incumbent in a runoff election amid deep discontent over economic woes in the European Union’s newest member.
The state electoral commission said that after about 97 percent of the vote counted, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic won 50.54 of the vote Sunday, while President Ivo Josipovic had 49.46 percent.
The result meant that Grabar-Kitarovic won by a slight margin of about 21,000 votes.
The politically conservative Grabar-Kitarovic, an ex-foreign minister and former NATO official, won 50.4 percent of the vote, according to results based on more than 99 percent of the ballots cast.
Her rival, centre-left incumbent Ivo Josipovic, garnered 49.6 percent of the vote, results released by the electoral commission showed.
“Grabar-Kitarovic won in a democratic battle and I congratulate her,” 57-year-old Josipovic told supporters at his Zagreb headquarters.
The 46-year-old candidate of the main opposition HDZ party will be the first woman to take the helm of the European Union’s newest member state.
She is also the first female head of state chosen by voters in the largely patriarchal Balkans region since Kosovo’s Atifete Jahjaga was elected by parliament in 2011.
Sunday’s election for the mainly ceremonial post was held as Croatia, which became the EU’s 28th member in July 2013, grapples with a deep economic crisis.
The vote was always expected to be close. In the first round two weeks ago, Josipovic won 38.5 percent of the vote, just edging Grabar-Kitarovic with 37.2 percent. The runoff was called because neither candidate captured more than 50 percent needed to win outright.
The presidency in Croatia is a largely ceremonial position, but the vote was considered an important test for the main political parties before the parliamentary elections expected in the second half of the year.
SOURCE – YAHOO/ CBS NEWS