Stipe Mesic is set for a second mandate as Croatian president, according to the first exit polls after Sunday’s election in the Balkan nation.
Surveys suggest the liberal incumbent has taken over 51 percent of the vote. That would be enough to win the ballot outright.
His main rival had been hoping to take the battle to a second-round run-off later this month.
But if the polls are to be believed Jadranka Kosor, the deputy prime minister and candidate of Croatia’s ruling conservatives, isn’t even the runner-up.
Trailing at 17 percent in the exit polls, she looks to have been beaten to second place by a wealthy businessman standing as an independent after making his fortune in the United States.
Mesic is credited by the West with spearheading Zagreb’s efforts to normalise relations with Serbia and Bosnia Hercegovina after the former Yugoslavia’s bloody break-up in the early 1990s. Should the early indications be proved right, it will be down to him to steer Croatia towards membership of the European Union.
Talks are due to get underway later this year with EU entry planned for 2009.