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Croatian Opposition Candidate Milanovic Wins Presidential Vote


Zoran Milanovic (file photo)

ZAGREB -- Croatian presidential election candidate Zoran Milanovic has won the country's second-round presidential ballot, defeating the conservative incumbent candidate Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.

Milanovic, a leftist candidate and former prime minister, won 53 percent of the votes in the January 5 ballot, according to election authorities.

Grabar-Kitarovic, the candidate of the ruling center-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), won 47 percent of the vote.

The presidency is mostly a ceremonial post. But experts say Grabar-Kitarovic's election defeat could mean trouble for the HDZ's moderate prime minister, Andrej Plenkovic, in parliamentary elections scheduled for later this year.

Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic, a senior member of the HDZ, said the party would analyze the results of the presidential vote.

"The aim of the analysis and its conclusions is for us to come out stronger and not repeat at the parliamentary election whatever turned out to be a flaw or a mistake during this campaign," Bozinovic said. "We are not looking for culprits, but reasons why."

The HDZ has led Croatia for most of the time since the country declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Grabar-Kitarovic finished second to Milanovic in a field of 11 candidates in the December 22 first round of voting. Milanovic received 29.56 percent and Grabar-Kitarovic 26.7 percent.

The runoff vote occurred days after Zagreb took over the European Union's rotating presidency for a six-month term likely to be highlighted by the drive for EU membership by other Western Balkan nations.

Plenkovic on January 2 said his country would work to help "unblock the process" surrounding EU membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia while it holds the EU presidency.

France and the Netherlands have halted the opening of membership talks with the two countries, sparking disappointment in the Western Balkans as Russia and China vie for influence in the volatile region.

With reporting by dpa, AFP, AP, and Reuters
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