For the first time since 1990 and gain of independence from Yugoslavia Croatia will have a female president in Kolinda Grabar Kitarović of Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). Mrs. Grabar Kitarović won runoff round of presidential elections with just over one percent point ahead of incumbent one-term president Ivo Josipović. Following Mrs. Grabar Kitarović Croatia remains divided and evenly split between left-wing supporters of governing party Socialdemocratic Party (SDP) and main opposition/President-elect Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).
Kolinda Grabar Kitarović comes to position of Croatian president from position of Deputy General Sec. of NATO and with wide range experience in Croatian government especially in area of foreign affairs. Following founder of her political party dr. Franjo Tuđman and left-wing presidents Stjepan Mesić and Ivo Josipović, president-elect Kolinda Grabar Kitarović is Croatia’s first female president.
Grbar Kitarović promised that during her term she will work on recovery of Croatian economy, unemployment, will work more with EU partners rather to spend more time focused on regional political activities. Kitarović during campaign promised that she will be one who will take lead and will order government what to do in order to move country ahead. These promises will be hardly implemented due to constitutional divides of powers and presidential abilities to make impact on cabinet decisions.
According to unofficial and incomplete results released by Croatian Elections Commission after 99,59% of counted votes Grabar Kitarović got 50,43% ahead of incumbent President Josipović 49,57%. Major problems during election day were recorded not in Croatia but in Bosnia and Herzegovina city of Mostar where thousands of expatriates and voters with dual citizenship waited for hours to exercise their democratic rights. In one moment special police forces were called in to help with security and order on voting location in Mostar. Many believe that president-elect Grabar Kitarović victory came thanks to votes from diaspora mainly from Mostar which is stronghold of Croatian HDZ sister party lead by member of Bosnian Presidency Dragan Čović.
In her victory speech president-elect Grabar Kitarović said that this is victory for patriotic coalition gathered around HDZ and not only in Croatia but also in Bosnia and Herzegovina and around the world.
“When I started this adventure many asked me ‘why are you going into the race when you know you will lose?’, I told them that I never lose and that I will win. Now we need to continue working. I promise you that Croatia will become one of the most developed and successful countries in Europe and the world”, said Grabar Kitarović.
Ivo Josipović, legal expert and professor at the University of Zagreb, is the first president of Croatia who didn’t won second term since 1990. Both of his predecessors Tuđman and Mesić easily won two terms for presidency in 1990’s and early 2000’s. In his final speech as presidential candidate Ivo Josipović while accepting decision of Croatian electorate outgoing president said that democracy has won.
“President-elect Kitarović has won in democratic race, democracy has won tonight. Dear friends let’s continue working together and let’s continue working on all good projects which we started in the past and which are good for Croatia”, said President Josipović.
Croatia starts bumpy ride for at least another year while president of the country will be right-wing Grabar Kitarović and the government will continue to work under a leadership of SDP PM Milanović. Grabar Kitarović victory will certainly give hopes to HDZ that they will have come back to parliamentary power on next year scheduled elections.