Croatia's opposition candidate wins presidential vote - partial results

 Croatias opposition candidate wins presidential vote - partial results

By Igor Ilic

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Former prime minister Zoran Milanovic, candidate of the main opposition Social Democrats, looked set to win Croatia's presidential election on Sunday, according to partial results.

With just over half of the votes counted in the second and final round of the election, Milanovic had 54%. His opponent, the incumbent Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, candidate of the ruling centre-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), had about 46%.

The president's role is largely ceremonial in Croatia. The head of state cannot veto laws, but has a say in foreign policy, defence and security matters.

Milanovic, who served as prime minister from 2011 to 2015, ran his election campaign on a promise to fight corruption, which he said had increased since he lost power to the conservatives.

"Milanovic's victory would consolidate the Social Democrats and strengthen the party ahead of a parliamentary vote (due in the autumn)," political analyst Branko Caratan told state television.

In the first round of the election two weeks ago, Milanovic beat 11 other candidates to come first with 29.6% of votes, with Grabar-Kitarovic in second place on 26.7%.

"This election is a kind of preliminary stage for the parliamentary election later this year," said political analyst Zarko Puhovski.

While some analysts said Milanovic's victory could hurt the standing of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic in his HDZ party, others said he would be able to manage the challenge.

"I think that Plenkovic is a skilled politician who will know how to balance in the new situation," Smiljana Leinert Novosel told state television.

Croatia took over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union on Jan. 1.

(Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Ivana Sekularac and Gareth Jones)

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Updated Date: Jan 06, 2020 02:12:58 IST