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Presidential polls close in Croatia
Social Democrat Ivo Josipovic takes on rival presidential candidate Milan Bandic.
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2010 18:08 GMT
Opinion polls give Ivo Josipovic, left, the lead over rival presidential candidate Milan Bandic [AFP]

Polls have closed in Croatia where thousands of people voted in a presidential election run-off that pits a legal academic against the mayor of the capital Zagreb.

Polls opened on Sunday at 6:00GMT and closed at 18:00 GMT in a race with 4.4 Croats eligible to vote.

Results for the presidential run-off are expected by midnight.

The second-round poll saw two contrasting styles of leadership on offer in the nation that is looking to join the EU.

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

Milan Bandic, his rival in the second round, received about half that number.

EU membership

Opinion polls predict 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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