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Croats Vote In Presidential Election

2 January 2005 -- Croats go to the polls today to vote in a presidential election.

Incumbent President Stipe Mesic is favored to win another term. He faces 12 challengers. The top challenger will likely be Jadranka Kosor, who is a cabinet minister.

If no candidate gains an overall majority in today's vote, the top two candidates will meet again in a runoff on 16 January.

Mesic came to power in 2000 as a welcomed contrast to his predecessor, the autocratic President Franjo Tudjman, who died two months before that vote.

Croatia is now hoping to join the European Union and NATO by the end of the decade.

Both Mesic and Kosor say they would maintain the country's pro-Western course.