Politics

Croatia Presidential Election: Milanović Defeats Incumbent Grabar-Kitarović

By 5 January 2020

According to final election results, released at 5:30am CET (Central European Time) on January 6, 2020; former Prime Minister Zoran Milanović has defeated incumbent Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and won his first five-year term as President of Croatia.

Here is a breakdown of the final election results with 100% votes processed (updated 5:30am CET):

52.67% - Zoran Milanović – Former Prime Minister | SDP
47.33% - Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović – Incumbent President | HDZ

Former Croatia Prime Minister Began Career as Diplomat

Zoran Milanović, born in 1966; was Prime Minister of Croatia from 2011 to 2016. He was also the leader of SDP (Social Democratic Party of Croatia), the largest center-left political party, from 2007 to 2016. He served as leader of the opposition twice, from 2007 to 2011 and for several months in 2016.

Milanović began his career in the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He served as advisor at the Croatian Mission to the European Union and NATO and was assistant to the Foreign Minister of Croatia for political multilateral affairs.

Oversaw Croatia Entry Into EU in 2013

In June 2007, Milanović was elected President of SDP and formed a coalition uniting four center-left political parties, which won an absolute majority in the 2011 parliamentary election. He became Prime Minister later that year and oversaw Croatia’s entry into the EU in 2013.

His cabinet introduced changes to the tax code and began several large infrastructure projects. Milanović also supported the expansion of the rights of same-sex couples and introduced the Life Partnership Act.

Post-Political Career as International Consultant

He served as Prime Minister until 2015 and led the four-party coalition until early parliamentary elections in 2016. Milanović announced his withdrawal from politics following a surprise defeat. He began a career as a consultant and worked as advisor to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

In June 2019, Milanović announced his campaign for President of Croatia under the slogan “A President with Character.” He ran on a center-left platform, his record as prime minister and promised to be tough on corruption.

croatia_election_president_01.jpg

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Donald Trump | Facebook

First Woman and Youngest Croatian President

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, born in 1968; has been the President of Croatia since 2015. She was the first woman and the youngest person to ever assume the office. In 2017, Forbes magazine listed Grabar-Kitarović as the world's 39th most powerful woman.

Before her election, Grabar-Kitarović held several governmental and diplomatic positions including Minister of European Affairs, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Croatian ambassador to the United States, and NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy.

She was the only female candidate in the Croatian presidential elections held in December 2014 and January 2015 and was runner-up in the first round. She narrowly defeated incumbent President Ivo Josipović in the second round.

International Press Attention at 2018 World Cup

In 2018, Grabar-Kitarović received international press attention for attending the FIFA World Cup quarter-final and final matches, where she wore colors of the Croatian flag in support of the national team, who finished the tournament in second place.

Gaffes and Controversial Endorsements

Her presidential re-election campaign has weathered a series of gaffes and missteps. Last month, she claimed at a campaign rally in Osijek that she had secured jobs for Croatian citizens to work from home for 8000 EUR, after they had received training abroad. However, she later declined to provide details.

While she has positioned herself as a centrist, she welcomed endorsements from several controversial and far right-wing political figures. Marko Perković Thompson, a singer known for his use of WWII Croatian fascist symbols and language in performances, backed her re-election. And Grabar-Kitarović’s website featured a video message from Julienne Bušić, American-born author and activist, who hijacked a TWA flight in 1976 to promote Croatian independence. The party of Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, who is facing corruption charges, also endorsed her candidacy.

Former Prime Minister Maintained Solid Lead in First Round

According to exit polls in the first round of elections, held on December 22, 2019; Zoran Milanović maintained comfortable leads over Grabar-Kitarović and Miroslav Škoro, his two main opponents. Grabar-Kitarović was initially polling within one percentage point of Miroslav Škoro, which led to doubts about whether she would advance to the second round. According to final election results, Milanović received 29.55% of the vote and finished ahead of Grabar-Kitarović (26.65%) by nearly three percentage points. In turn, she eliminated Škoro (24.45%) from the run-off by a lead of just over two percentage points.

Grabar-Kitarović and Škoro, a popular folk musician, competed for support from center-right and far-right political parties and organizations, which led some analysts to believe that Škoro supporters would automatically shift their allegiance to the president in the run-off. However, pre-election polls had generated inconclusive results; with the President and former Prime Minister polling within a margin of error and leaving behind a large block of undecided voters. While Škoro confirmed that he would vote at the polls; he declined to endorse either candidate – and said that he would void his ballot.

Both candidates agreed to three debates, which were held on Monday, Thursday and Friday preceding the election. Mutual accusations of incompetence, impropriety and dishonesty dominated the discussions, which offered little on specific policy proposals.

Follow our Politics page for updates on this presidential election and upcoming 2020 parliament elections.

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