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News 12 Jan 15

Grabar Kitarovic Win Draws Contrasting Reactions

Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic hails 'victory of patrotism', Josipovic concedes defeat graciously - but the Croatia's SDP Prime Minister strikes a bitter note, accusing her of running 'sectarian' campaign.

Sven Milekic


Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic and HDZ president Tomislav Karamarko. Photo: Beta

Croatia's new president saluted her surprise victory in Sunday's presidential election.

Addressing her “dear Croatian men and women all over Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and around the world", she spoke of this "great night in which we have achieved a victory for our patriotic coalition and beloved homeland”.

Grabar Kitarovic stressed the unity of all the country's citizens, including Josipovic’s voters, and thanking the other presidential candidates in the first round, Milan Kujundzic and Ivan Vilibor Sincic.

“We all want a better Croatia, we need to focus on what matters: the life of the Croatian people in Croatia," she said.

"I invite you all to unite and urge those who have voted for Josipovic to be a part of our team, because there has been enough division, enough of ‘ours and yours’; you are mine, unite; let's unite our patriotism,” Grabar Kitarovic said.

“A task is awaiting for us, we're going to work for the benefit of our dear Croatia,” she concluded, while repeating the words “unity” and “homeland”.

Ivo Josipovic, the defeated candidate in the presidential election, meanwhile admitted his loss and graciously congratulated his opponent on her unexpected win.

“Let me congratulate the victory of the newly elected President, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic," he said.

"We had an exhausting campaign, confrontations, mutually opposing each other, but democracy has won. Mrs Grabar Kitarovic won the democratic game and so I congratulate her,” Josipovic said.

Josipovic thanked everyone for casting their votes for him, while leaving a door open for future political engagements.

The Prime Minister and Social Democrat leader, Zoran Milanovic, struck a very different note, however, accusing Grabar Kitarovic of conducting a “sectarian" campaign.

“Grabar Kitarovic presented itself as a militant soldier of her party. This was a campaign in seven sentences, which she kept repeating,” Milanovic said, adding that he was aware that the government parties had been “a burden” on Josipovic's chances.

Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic, leader of the Croatian People's Party, congratulated Grabar Kitarovic on her win but advised her to not to act like a president coming from the most conservative wing of the HDZ.

“She needs to unite the country," Pusic said.

"If she is not able to do that, then she will only tempt her party to try to destabilize the country, Pusic added. "What she has advocated - a return to the nationalism of the 1990s - there is no room for now in Croatia."

The president of the HDZ, Tomislav Karamarko, was the first to talk at Grabar Kitarovic’s headquarters, stating “we have a president”.

“The strongest Croatian party, which was led by Dr Franjo Tudjman, the greatest Croat in 20th century, who created the Croatian state, now has its own president of the Republic,” he said, referring to Croatia's late independence leader.

“She is a president who will not only be the exponent of the HDZ at Pantovcak [the presidential residence], but will work with the future Croatian government that will come at the end of the year - to the benefit of the Croatian people,” Karamarko added, evidently predicting an HDZ win in the parliamentary elections due at the end of 2015.

In the region, Nermina Kapetanovic, a Bosnian MP, from the Muslim Party of Democratic Action, SDA, said the SDA has a reason to be satisfied with the result of the election in Croatia.

Both the HDZ and SDA belong to the European People's Party, EPP, the center-right party that gathers over 70 national parties from 40 countries, she noted.

Grabar-Kitarovic's victory was also important because Croatians had showed they were ready to give a chance to a woman, breaking down prejudice, which might encourage Bosnian voters to do the same in the future.

Turning to Bosnia itself, she said she hoped the new President would not concentrate solely on the ethnic Croat community in Bosnia.

“Grabar-Kitarovic made direct promises to Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but I think the Croat questions should be resolved in Bosnia and Herzegovina and we all here have to engage in solving them,” Kapetanovic said.

“As a member of the EU, Croatia should be helping Bosnia and Herzegovina in the process but not just Croats, the country as whole.”

Pero Nikic, leader of HDZ 1990 in Bosnia, the HDZ's sister party, said his party expected Croatia to continue to act as a guarantee of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the three-year war in Bosnia.

"We believe that... Croatia will take on a more active role in the EU in the process of Bosnia and Herzegovina's path towards the EU," Nikic said.



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