The former Social Democratic Prime Minister, Zoran Milanovic, was the most voted candidate in the presidential elections of Croatia this Sunday, but will have to go to the second round in two weeks with the current head of state, the conservative Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.
With 95% of the ballots scrutinized, Milanovic had obtained the 29.6% of votes, against 26.8% of Grabar-Kitarovic.
Since no candidate has obtained the absolute majority, the two most voted will go to a definitive return on January 5.
Third, with 24.4%, it remained Miroslav Skoro, a popular singer that was presented as independent but with the support of several formations of the ultranationalist right.
Analysts estimate that in the second round the current president has many possibilities to revalidate the position, being able to take advantage of the conservative vote of Skoro.
Grabar-Kitarovic herself acknowledged that she had had competence in her "political spectrum."
"But Now let's all come together and we are going to victory, "he said in his first public reaction to the result.
Milanovic, on the other hand, asked after knowing the results that the Croats leave "the unnecessary internal political divisions" and enjoy the benefits of belonging to the community.
"Croatian citizens may be different, but they must be equal in rights," he said, ensuring that under his presidency there will be no "second class" croats.
The ultranationalist vote
In any case, a hard fight is announced, since the popularity of Milanovic was rising to surpass the outgoing president, who was clearly a favorite until almost the end of the campaign.
Grabar-Kitarovic is a candidate of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), integrated into the European People's Party and who runs a Minority coalition government.
The conservative candidate has competed with Skoro for the right-wing and ultra-nationalist electorate, even with tributes to those convicted of war criminals and with a very hard speech against the Serbian minority.
Milanovic has maintained a more conciliatory mood, calling for a "normal" Croatia during the campaign, without intolerance, hatred or corruption.
During his time at the helm of the Government (2011-2016), the rights of homosexuals and of the Serbian minority were extended.
Grabar-Kitarovic cannot avoid, as he has done so far, debate on television with his rival, considered superior in the dialectical field.
"However, unlike the voters of Milanovic, those of Grabar-Kitarovic do not punish false steps don't even despise, "the former conservative minister Jadranka Kosor evaluated for N1.
He recalled that the controversial statements of Grabar-Kitarovic have abounded in the campaign without significantly damaging his popularity.
Transparency International Croatia has lamented that in the campaign the important social problems of the country have not been discussed, the second poorest in the European Union, affected by the march of many Croats abroad and with serious corruption problems.
70% of Croats are, according to polls, dissatisfied with the country's direction.
The second round will take place when Croatia has assumed on January 1 its first semi-annual rotating EU presidency, to which the country belongs since 2013, an issue that the candidates have not touched on during the campaign.
Although the Government has made the enlargement of the EU one of the priorities of its presidency, Grabar-Kitarovic has promised block the entrance of Serbia until that country does not report on the missing Croats during the 1991 war in which the country gained independence from Yugoslavia.
In Croatia, the president has a five-year term and eminently representative powers, although he does play an important role, together with the Executive, in the foreign policy.
In that sense, Milanovic has defended during the campaign that Croatia is among the "progressive Western European countries".
These elections are seen as a political thermometer before the 2020 parliamentary elections, and analysts believe that a conservative victory could support the position of the HDZ.
The attendance at the polls was 50%, 2.5 points more That five years ago.
Milanovic is 53 years old and graduated in Law. He has held several diplomatic positions and was Prime Minister with the Social Democratic Party between 2011 and 2016, when Croatia entered the EU. He speaks English, French and Russian.
Born in 1968, Grabar-Kitarovic has a postgraduate degree in International Relations. She was appointed Minister of European Integrations in 2003 and between 2005 and 2008 she worked Foreign, when Croatia was preparing to enter the EU. Then she was an ambassador to the United States and deputy secretary general of NATO.