Croatia: local elections, ballots key in major cities

Government candidate towards defeat in Zagreb. Test ahead of EU

20 May, 10:34

    (ANSAmed) - ZAGREB, MAY 20 - Forty days before Croatia's adhesion to the European Union, local elections held Sunday in the former Yugoslav country which are considered a key test for the government proved inconclusive with major cities heading to a ballot in two weeks to elect a mayor, according to the first exit polls released by Croatian broadcasters after polls closed at 7 pm local time.

    The centre-right coalition headed by the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (Hdz), along with the centre-left government coalition appeared to have fared well, according to the first results, especially in major cities, except for Zagreb.

    In the Croatian capital, outgoing Mayor Milan Bandic, a former Social Democrat who is now running as an independent candidate with a populist vocation, will confront in a run-off vote his rival, Health Minister Rajko Ostojic, a Social Democrat in the government of Premier Zoran Milanovic who appeared to be behind in the first round of voting. According to exit polls, Bandic won 44% of the vote against Ostojic's 25%. Bandic does not belong to one of the two main coalitions but is now considered more of a conservative. The probable defeat in Zagreb, a centre-left stronghold, would be a significant setback for Milanovic's government.

    The only likely change appears to be in Split, Dalmatia's main city, where controversial mayor Zeljko Kerum, an entrepreneur known for issuing nationalistic statements and being a staunch opponent of the local Gay Pride, came out third with 16% of the vote. His rivals, the Spd candidate who appeared to have won 30% and the Hdz candidate who got 22% will probably face off on June 2.

    In Croatia's third largest city Rijeka, the Spd party which has been running the Adriatic seaport centre since 1990, once again appeared to have won with Major Vojko Obersnel gaining 48% of votes, according to the exit polls, and he could get a fifth consecutive mandate.

    Voter turnout appeared to be low like four years ago. At 4 pm yesterday, only 33% of the country's 3.7 million would-be voters had cast their ballots. The final results of the vote in 555 cities and 21 provinces will be available today.(ANSAmed).

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