In the first round of the elections for presidency in Croatia the sitting president Stipe Mesic (HNS) has failed to win the race. With 48,92 percent of the votes, he did not get the majority of fifty percent necessary to win. A second round of elections will take place on the 16th of January. Mesic is confident that he will win a second five-year term in office and described his result as a "brilliant victory". His immediate rival, Ms Jadranka Kosor of the Croatian Democratc Union (HDZ) received 20,31 percent of the votes.
Altogether there were 13 candidates in the first round and the final result will mostly depend on how the defeated candidates tell their voters to vote in the second round. The surprise of the election was the independent candidate and wealthy US-based businessman Boris Miksic who came in third with 17.80 per cent. All other candidates won under three per cent of the vote. Voter turnout was 50.95 per cent. Political observers believe the low turnout in the election may have contributed to Mesic failing to win in the first round.
The election campaign was largely dominated by the prospect of Croatia's future EU membership, which is supported by both the ruling and opposition parties. Croatia is due to open entry talks with the Union in March, provided it has demonstrated full co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague by that time. Brussels is pushing in particular for the arrest and handover of retired General Ante Gotovina, one of the most wanted fugitives from the Balkan conflicts in the 1990s. Full membership in the European Union is expected in 2009.
These were the first elections in post-war Croatia that were not monitored by the Election Observation Mission (EOM) of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Croatia’s State Election Committee (SEC). The last national elections held in Croatia that were monitored by international observers were the elections of the Sabor (parliament). Ivo Sanader, party colleague of Kosor became prime minister after these elections. The powers of the Croatian president are limited, most decisions are made by the prime minister and parliament.