[JURIST] The citizens of the Republic of Croatia voted in the nation’s presidential election on Sunday. The first-round of voting ended in a runoff between the incumbent, Croatian President Ivo Josipovic [BBC profile], and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic [official profile], an ex-ambassador and most recently NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy. With 97 percent of the votes counted [Bloomberg report], Josopovic won 38.5 percent of the vote and 37 percent went to Grabar-Kitarovic. Josopovic represents the center-left Social Democratic Party (SDP), which is under pressure to mend the nation’s struggling economy and high unemployment rate [Guardian report]. Grabar-Kitarovic represents the main-opposition party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), which is more conservative than the SDP. Approximately 3.8 million of the country’s 4.4 million total population were eligible to vote on Sunday, and turnout averaged close to 36 percent [AP report]. As neither candidate secured over 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held on January 11 between Josipovic and Grabar-Kitarovic.
In Croatia economic reform is the main political issue, as the country enters its sixth straight year in a recession. In July 2013 Croatia became the latest country to join [JURIST report] the European Union (EU) [official website]. After nearly 18 months, unemployment nears 20 percent [Guardian report] and public debt is 80 percent of gross domestic product.