Profiles of Croatia’s presidential run-off rivals


Ivo Josipovic, a law professor of the main opposition Social Democrats, and Milan Bandic, the Zagreb mayor running as an independent, face each other in Croatia’s presidential election run-off on Sunday.

Josipovic, who garnered 32.4 per cent of the vote in the first round on December 27, more than double the support for Bandic, his former party colleague, continues to dominate in opinion polls with a 10 to 20 point lead.

The candidates share a similar agenda, emphasising the fight against corruption and the country’s integration into the European Union, which Zagreb hopes to achieve by 2012, as their priorities. However in terms of their image and rhetoric Josipovic and Bandic are worlds apart.

Here are short profiles of the two candidates:

Ivo Josipovic, 52: Josipovic, the candidate of the main opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) was born and educated in Zagreb, where he graduated with law and music degrees, to become both a legal expert and a composer of classical music.

A criminal and international criminal law lecturer at Zagreb University, Josipovic was elected to parliament in 2003 after a nine-year absence from politics.

Analysts say that he has a reputation for competence and an untarnished political career, but some feel he lacks charisma. With grey hair and glasses, critics say he colourless and failed to shake his “boring image of a jurist and a professor”.

However Croatia’s public, bombarded by a series of high-level corruption affairs, might be longing for a president who “brings a sense of civil virtue to the table, even if it is sterile”, other analysts argue.

The mild-mannered intellectual has campaigned under the slogan “Justice for Croatia,” insisting on the need to fight corruption and “return of morals in politics”.

“A decisive fight against corruption and crime is my main task,” Josipovic said. He vowed to eradicate “enrichment founded on corruption instead on work” and “political and family ties as top criteria for one’s progress”.

Josipovic is married and has a daughter.

Milan Bandic, 54: Bandic, the popular mayor of Zagreb, is running as an independent candidate after being expelled from the main opposition SPD party in November when he announced his candidacy for the presidency.

With his conservative viewpoints – notably strong links with the powerful Roman Catholic Church and support of traditional values – Bandic was often an odd man out within the opposition social democrats.

The Bosnian-born veteran politician studied politics at Zagreb university and first became major of Zagreb in 2000.

Forced to resign after three years following a drink-driving scandal, in which he fled from police, Bandic styles himself as an “ordinary man of flesh and blood”.

A passionate long-distance runner, he has promised to “work like a horse for Croatia” if he is elected president. Bandic names his leading virtues are “patriotism, philanthropy and love of God” and promises to stand up for “the little man”.

Critics point to Bandic’s suspected links with corruption in the capital, his alleged incompetence for the job and reputation for empty rhetoric. The energetic populist has countered that “deeds are better than words” and emphasises that the country “needs a man who had already proven himself”.

Bandic is expected to attract votes of those backing the ruling conservatives, whose candidate did not make into the run-off, as well as supporters of Right-wing parties. He is also very popular among the some 268,000 ethnic Croats living in Bosnia who have the right to vote in the presidential elections.

Bandic is married and has a daughter.

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