Zoran Milanovic wins Croatian presidential election

NEWS 05.01.2020 21:07
Source: N1, PIXSELL/Luka Stanz

With nearly all of the ballots counted, former Prime Minister and centre-left candidate Zoran Milanovic won 52.7 percent of the votes, while the incumbent conservative president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, with 47.3 percent of the votes, did not manage to win a second term.

Even though the polls in the days running up to the election indicated the vote would be unpredictable, Milanovic managed to hold onto his 2.8-percent advantage from the first round held on December 22, and even increase it to a comfortable margin of some 5 percent. 

“The people of Croatia elected me to be the President of Croatia, of Croats and all others who live here, and I am happy. I know there are many out there who do not like me, but we must live with each other because there is so few of us and we cannot be divided like this. You will not hear sugary stories about unity from me, but I hope and believe I will not betray the trust you have given me,” President-elect Zoran Milanovic said in his victory speech.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic thanked all those who came out to vote in the election, calling for unity. 

“The takeaway from this election is that we must listen to the people more. We heard their voice tonight, and Zoran Milanovic will be the next President of Croatia. I congratulate him,” she said. “I wish him success, because this will be in the interest of our children and our country. I will always be here to help, I am staying in Croatia.”

Conservative votes were divided in the first round of the election between Grabar-Kitarovic and singer-turned-politician Miroslav Skoro, who ran on a right-wing platform. After coming in third in the first round with some 24 percent of votes, he called on his voters to render their votes void in the second round. The eastern region of the country, where he had won most of the votes, had the lowest voter turnout in the runoff.

Nonetheless, voter turnout throughout the country was higher than in the first round, with nearly 55 percent of Croatia’s 3.8 million voters casting ballots on Sunday. Milanovic won the most votes in four largest cities in Croatia, with Grabar-Kitarovic winning in rural areas, as well as votes from the diaspora. 

The president's role is largely ceremonial in Croatia, with the head of state in charge of the military and representing the country abroad. The next five-year term will begin in February.