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Croatia Elects First Female President

  • RFE/RL

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has become Croatia's first female president.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has become Croatia's first female president.

Croatia has elected its first female president.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic -- a conservative populist -- narrowly beat President Ivo Josipovic in a run-off vote on January 11.

Grabar-Kitarovic won by a slight margin of about 21,000 votes.

Grabar-Kitarovic said during her victory speech that this was "a glorious night for all Croats."

"I will work for Croatia, and I won't allow anyone saying that Croatia will not be a prosperous country," she said.

The post of president is largely ceremonial in Croatia.

However, analysts consider the election a barometer of voter feeling ahead of parliamentary elections later this year.

The victory for Grabar-Kitarovic -- giving her a five-year term -- greatly boosts the chances of her center-right Croatian Democratic Union to win back power.

Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, but its economy remains the bloc's weakest, with unemployment at almost 20 percent and just 0.5 percent growth predicted for this year.

Grabar-Kitarovic is a former foreign minister, ambassador to Washington and an ex-assistant to the NATO secretary general.

She has said that Josipovic did nothing to stop Croatia's economic downturn.

Josipovic has said the president's duties don't include the government's economic policies and has proposed constitutional changes that would decentralize the country and give more power to Croatia's regional authorities.

Grabar-Kitarovic also criticized Josipovic for allegedly being too soft toward Serbs, who in the 1990s fought a war against Croatia's independence from the former Yugoslavia.

She said Serbia's EU membership bid must be conditioned by Croatia.

"Serbia is our neighborly and friendly country," Josipovic said after he cast his ballot. "But it has to meet the same conditions which we had during our bid for the European Union."

With reporting by AP and AFP