Croatia has a strong presidential turn between right and left

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) - Voters in Croatia voted Sunday to elect a new president in a fiercely contested second round, with a liberal opposition candidate challenging the conservative incumbent while the country presides over the European Union for the first time. Croatia assumed the rotating presidency of the EU on January 1 for the first time since joining the bloc in 2013. This means that the new EU member state will have the task for six months of supervising Britain's divorce from the EU. on January 31 and the start of talks after Brexit. Sunday's second presidential round is expected to be a very tight and unpredictable vote. President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic is running for a second term, challenged by former leftist Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, the two main contenders after the first round of voting on December 22. Milanovic won a little more votes than Grabar Kitarovic in the first round, but analysts say there is no clear favorite in the second round. There are 3.8 million voters in Croatia, a 4.2 million country that is also a member of NATO. The two candidates represent the two main political options in Croatia. Grabar Kitarovic is backed by the conservative and ruling Croatian Democratic Union, a dominant political force since the country separated from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, while Milanovic has the support of leftist social democrats and their liberal allies. Although Croatia's presidency is largely ceremonial, on Sundays It is an important test before a parliamentary election that is expected for this year. Milanovic's victory over Grabar Kitarovic would shake the conservative government during the crucial EU presidency and weaken its control over power in an election year. When voting in the capital of Zagreb, Milanovic said that the presidential elections were a first step towards changes. This is important, everyone should vote, practically everyone, said Milanovic. The election is not a confrontation with anyone, but an attempt to create a normal Croatia. Record Kitarovic said that today we decide what Croatia will be like in the coming years. Every person is important, every vote is important, he said. Let's build a Croatia together that will look forward and not backward. The support for Grabar Kitarovic has diminished after a series of errors in the electoral campaign. The 51-year-old woman had a career in diplomacy and NATO before becoming the first female president of Croatia in 2015. Upon reaching the second round, Grabar Kitarovic evoked the unity of Croatia during the 1991-95 war in a attempt to attract votes from the extreme right. Milanovic, 53, hopes to regain some influence for liberals in the predominantly conservative nation, where the Catholic church has significant influence. Prone to populist outbursts while the prime minister, Milanovic lost popularity after the impeachment of his government in 2016. Now he says he learned from the experience and matured. Although Croatia is a member of the EU, it still has corruption problems and economic problems, unresolved problems since its devastating war of 1991-95 to free itself from the Yugoslav federation led by the Serbs. This story has not been edited by The Times of India and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed to which we subscribe. (This story has not been edited by and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed to which we subscribe.)