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Croatians Vote In Presidential Election

The December 27 presidential election is the fifth since Croatia gained independence. (photo
Croatians have been at the polls to elect a president to help the steer the Balkan country toward eventual membership in the European Union.

Twelve candidates are standing to replace the outgoing President Stipe Mesic, who during his two five-year terms helped guide Croatia to parliamentary democracy and membership in NATO following the authoritarian rule of independence and wartime leader Franjo Tudjman.

The vote was expected to lead to a January 10 runoff, as opinion polls suggested that none of the 12 candidates was likely to secure the necessary 50 percent support needed for a first-round victory.

Polls have shown a clear lead for legal expert Ivo Josipovic of the main opposition Social Democrats, who has pledged to make progress in the battle against the high-level corruption that has plagued Croatia.

Other leading contenders are said to include Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic and wealthy businessman Nadan Vidosevic.

compiled from agency reports