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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - ZAGREB - Croatians went to the polls Sunday to elect a new President in an uncertain vote where the conservative incumbent -- trying to unite a fractured right wing -- faces a serious challenge from a leftist former Prime Minister.
Some 3.8 million people are eligible to vote in a poll that is being held just days after Croatia took over the European Union's helm for a six-month period, which will be dominated by Brexit and the bloc's enlargement.
At the same time, the EU's newest member is struggling with a mass exodus of its people, corruption and a lackluster economy at home.
Center-right incumbent, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, is campaigning on a "real Croatia" ticket, and Zoran Milanovic, a former Social Democratic premier, is promising a "normal" liberal democracy of equal citizens.
The outcome of the vote for the largely ceremonial post is uncertain, with the latest survey by Ipsos agency giving Milanovic a three-percentage-point lead over Grabar-Kitarovic.
The latter, backed by the ruling HDZ party, will have to lure back hardliners who voted for a nationalist folk singer in the election's first round in December.
Dominating in cities, Milanovic led the first round with around a third of the vote, thanks in part to that split among the right-wingers.
Analysts said the first-round results showed an increase in support for hardliners, a trend seen in other European countries such as Poland or Hungary. -AFP
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