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Croatia Elects Social Democrat Josipovic as President

Social Democrats and supporters have been celebrating since the party made the victory announcement

Official results show that the candidate of the opposition Social Democrats has won the second and final round of Croatia's presidential elections. Ivo Josipovic will replace the popular Stipe Mesic, who served the legal maximum of two terms.

Party supporters have been celebrating since it was announced by the Social Democrats that their candidate, Ivo Josipovic, won Croatia's presidential elections.

The Croatian Electoral Commission says he received about 60 percent of Sunday's vote. That is more than had been predicted.

Many voters apparently appreciate his pledge to tackle corruption and re-establish trust in courts, police and politics.

Mr. Josipovic told an enthusiastic crowd that all Croats are winners in this election because he believes that everyone wants what he called "a better and fairer Croatia." He added Croats seek to live in a country "where work pays, and corruption is punished."

Election officials say rival Milan Bandic, the mayor of Zagreb, received 40 percent of the ballots cast.

Bandic has been under pressure because of local media allegations of his involvement in corruption in the Croatian capital - charges he strongly denies.

Tackling financial wrongdoing is a key condition to join the European Union.

President-elect Josipovic hopes his tough-on-crime policies will help Croatia to become an EU member within the next three years. He says he wants to make his Balkan nation what he calls "one of the great stars in the European sky."

Mr. Josipovic replaces the popular President Stipe Mesic, who steps down in February.

Mr. Mesic moved his country away from the war for independence from Yugoslavia in the 1990's and autocratic rule, towards a new era of democracy.

But Mr. Mesic regrets that he was unable to lead Croatia into the EU.

However, some European diplomats say they are confident that incoming president Josipovic will help to successfully conclude accession talks between the EU and Croatia.