Voting starts in Croatia's presidential runoff

Croatia presidential election

Ballot box for Croatia presidential poll.

Ballot box for Croatia presidential poll.

Voting has begun in Croatia’s presidential runoff that will determine who will rule the country for the next five years between incumbent President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and former Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic.

Voters began to cast their ballots at 7 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) on Sunday in an election where over 3.8 million are eligible.

Milanovic won the first round of the election on Dec. 22, 2019, with nearly 30 percent of the votes (562,783), while Grabar-Kitarovic came second with almost 27 percent of the votes (507,628).

Since no candidate obtained over 50 percent of the votes in the first round, the top two candidates are now facing off in the second round.

Polling stations are expected to close by 7 p.m. local time (1800 GMT), with the first results expected at 8 p.m. local time (1900 GMT).

Croats in diaspora are also voting in nearly 50 countries.

The presidential runoff will be overseen by a record number of 24,333 observers, said the State Electoral Commission.

Grabar-Kitarovic is running for a second term as the candidate of the ruling conservative party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), while Milanovic is the candidate of the largest center-left political party in the country, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and is backed by the liberal opposition.

The key for both candidates is to get support from the voters of Miroslav Skoro, a right-wing independent candidate and popular singer who finished third in the first round with some 24 percent of the votes.

Skoro has urged his supporters not to vote for any of the top two candidates although his ideas are politically closer to those of Grabar-Kitarovic.

The southeastern European country is having its seventh presidential election since independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.