Croatia to hold presidential elections amid regional EU accession goals

  Croatians go to the polls today to vote in a presidential election. Incumbent President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic is seeking a

 

Croatia Elections

AP Photo/Darko Bandic

Croatians go to the polls today to vote in a presidential election. Incumbent President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic is seeking a second and final five-year term.

Centre-right Grabar-Kitarovic’s main challengers are former leftist prime minister Zoran Milanovic and right-wing nationalist Miroslav Skoro. Although the presidency is mostly ceremonial, it does have some influence over foreign policy through choices of overseas diplomatic posts. Given that Croatia assumes the EU presidency on January 1, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s ruling centre-right conservative government would prefer to keep the status quo with Grabar-Kitarovic.

Grabar-Kitarovic has a slight lead in polling but is particularly vulnerable to Skoro’s nationalist rhetoric, which threatens to siphon first-round right-wing votes.

A win for Grabar-Kitarovic would provide stability for the government’s first-ever EU presidential term. Plenkovic is expected to support EU membership for neighbours Albania and North Macedonia and advance the prospects for other Balkan aspirants. Given the presidency’s prominence in Croatian public discourse, the president can rally domestic public support for government EU objectives, which Grabar-Kitarovic hopes to do during Croatia’s six-month presidency. However, such plans are expected to face early opposition from France, Denmark and the Netherlands, which vetoed the opening of accession talks in October.

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