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Exit poll favours Croat opposition
Survey says Social Democratic candidate is leading in Sunday's presidential run-off.
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2010 19:34 GMT
Opinion polls gave Ivo Josipovic, left, the lead over rival presidential candidate Milan Bandic [AFP]

Ivo Josipovic, the leader of opposition Social Democratic party, is likely to win Croatia's just concluded presidential run-off election, an exit poll says.

State-owned Nova TV reported that Josipovic was leading with 64.6 per cent of votes, against Milan Bandic's 35.4 per cent, after Sunday's crucial vote.

At least 4.4 million Croats were eligible to vote in the presidential run-off that saw two contrasting styles of leadership on offer in the nation that is looking to join the EU, an amibition the country hopes to achieve in 2012.

Official results for the second round of elections are due around 23:00 GMT. They will include votes of expatriate Croats, particularly those in Bosnia, who make up almost 10 per cent of the electorate.

Josipovic, a law expert and music composer, won the first round of voting on December 27 with 32 per cent. 

Bandic, who is the mayor of Croatia's capital, Zagreb, received about half that number.

EU membership

Earlier, opinion polls had predicted Josipovic to win the second round with 55 per cent of the votes against Bandic's 38 per cent. But there remain many undecided votes.

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  Croatians vote for new president

Both candidates have pledged to back Croatia's bid for EU membership, which it hopes to achieve in 2012.

No candidate won the more than 50 per cent of first round votes needed to prevent a run-off.

The poll took place amid a deepening economic crisis in the country and concerns among Croats over high-level corruption.

Twelve candidates were in the running in the first round to replace Stipe Mesic, a popular reformist who started the process of getting Croatia into the EU.

Mesic, who led his country into the Nato military alliance, is ineligible to stand for re-election, having already served two terms of five years.

The domestic powers of the Croatian presidency are limited and largely ceremonial, with the main decisions being made by the cabinet and parliament.

But the president leads the army and wields strong influence over foreign policy.

The government has recently begun cracking down corruption, a key condition for joining the EU.

Several of the candidates running in the first round stand accused of questionable past dealings, including Bandic.

Source:
Agencies
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