So, this is it. After completing my civic duty (and explaining my options in previous posts) I decided to provide something of a live blog to all those non-Croatians interested in the results of our nation's fifth presidential election. There is less than an hour before polling stations close and before Nova TV and RTL Televizija publish exit polls. I will try to provide basic election data with my first impressions.
18:14 So far, the first real numbers someone can operate with deal with the turnout. The story so far - the turnout is very low, much lower than during 2005 election. Official data for 16:00 CET give 33.97 percent turnout, which is low compared with 41.92 percent turnout in 2005.
Conventional wisdom tells that the low turnout benefits the establishment parties and right wing, because their voters tend to be more disciplined. That should mean good news for candidates like Hebrang, Primorac, Bandić (and possibly Vidošević). However, the turnout is higher in Zagreb than in rural areas. Turnout in Zagreb is higher than during mayoral elections. So, this might indicate better results for candidates with strong electoral base in Croatian capital, including some that belong to left-wing, like Vesna Pusić.K
I suspect that there would be some surprises among right wing candidates. My guess is that Miroslav Tudjman might perform better than in polls, together with Hebrang. They might snatch some votes from Bandić. Whether this is enough for Bandić to lose 2nd round ticket to Vidošević remains to be seen.
18:45 Word from one of headquarters - via Twitter - tells of exit polls indicating tight three-way race for 2nd place between Vidošević, Bandić and Hebrang.
It seems likely that the actual results might favour Bandić, because exit polls don't cover Bosnia-Herzegovina (which 2 percents of swing votes).
19:00 - Nova TV brings surprise - Josipović 32,7 percent; Bandić 14,2 percent (which isn't surprise); surprise is Hebrang with 12,1 perecent at 3rd place; major blow to Vidošević with 11,1 percent
19:02 - Nova TV report from Josipović headquarters. "Nobody here was biting nails about results". They knew they were getting into 2nd round.
19:20 - Vesna Pusić says that she expected entry into 2nd round with 60 % turnout. "We must do something to increase turnout in the future".
19:21 - Nikica Gabrić, head of Primorac's campaign, says that he expects to rise over 10 %.
19:23 - Head of Vidošević's campaign also blames bad results on poor turnout.
19:24 - Ratko Maček, head of Hebrang's campaign, claims that Bosnia-Herzegovina would tilt election towards Hebrang.
19:39 - Nova TV reports sky high turnout in Herzegovina.
19:45 - Village of Majići boycotted the election because they didn't receive proper road connection from government.
19:50 - Mislav Bago from Nova TV announces new, apparently more complete and accurate exit polls.
20:00 - New exit polls sh
21:21 - Back to blogging after longer pause. Word ("with major possibility of spin") via Twitter is that Bandić's people saw 300 K vote sample that puts Vidošević into 2nd round. You should take this with *huge* grain of salt.
21:55 - Both Bandić's head of campaign Danko Ljuština and Hebrang are certain that they are going into 2nd round. Hebrang claims that right-wing candidates won more than left-wing. Vidošević didn't concede yet, but he says that he is disappointed by low turnout.
21:32 - According to 50K votes counted in Zagreb, mayor Milan Bandić won only 15 percent. Winner is with 35 percent Ivo Josipović, while Vidošević is third with 11 percent.
21:37 - Zoran Milanović, chairman of SDP, can't hide his pleasure over defeat of his former comrade Bandić in Zagreb.
22:18 - First unofficial and incomplete data leaked from State Electoral Commission. According to them, Bandić carried Bosnia-Herzegovina, which makes him almost certain to enter 2nd round. Data from Bandić's HQ - Josipović 31.12 %, Bandić 16.1 %, Hebrang 11.82 %, Vidošević 11.27 %, Pusić 7.52 %, Dragan Primorac 5.35 %
23:08 - Jutarnji list reports partial official results, based on 43 % polling stations - Josipović 32.07 %, Bandić 17.76 %. Hloverka Novak-Srzić in HRT election special also told about Josipović and Bandić being almost certain to enter 2nd round
00:10 - First official results, apparently 99.45 % votes processed. As expected, Josipović and Bandić enter 2nd round with 32.44 % and 14.84 % respectively. Hebrang is third with 12.01 % and Vidošević fourth with 11.33 %. The biggest disppoinbtment is record low turnout of 44.07 %.
00:46 - Milan Bandić in his speech attacked Ivo Josipović as "remotelly controlled by Milanović", while Josipović said that the next round would be "election between light and darkness". It looks like much more passionate campaign in 2nd round.
Andrija Hebrang accused four candidates - Vidošević, Hebrang, Jurčević and Tuđman - of "conspiring to split right wing vote". HDZ, according to RTL Televizija, decided not to endorse any of two remaining candidates.
00:56 - All three Croatian TV networks stopped their election night coverage. So, this blog will follow their example.
There are roughly 91 hours for me (or for any Croatian citizen) to decide who to vote for in the first round of Croatian presidential election. Unfortunately, due to obsolete and useless electoral laws, there is less time me or anyone else to explain this decision. So, I would try to be as possible and in the process give some sort of explanation to those readers fortunate enough not to be exposed to this year's boring presidential campaign.
I decided to do it by giving personal pros and cons to in reverse order in general preference.
#1 Josip Jurčević, historian and indepedent candidate (generally classified as hard nationalist right)
Pro:something of an expert in his field
Con:hard right views that would continue eternal Ustasha vs. Partisan struggle and poison relations with Croatian neighbour; his official complaint against Nova TV's method of handling presidential debates led to the debate cancellation (and helped Milan Bandić)
Chances: Snowball in hell
#2 Boris Mikšić, businessman and indepedent candidate, best known for defying all polls and almost getting into 2nd round during 2005 elections
Pro: presumably good command of English language, his election would be middle finger to Croatian political establishment
Con: incoherent populist views that don't move much from right; electoral base limited to Zagreb; spent force who had his chance in 2005 and blew it; vote for him is a waste
Chances: Snowball in hell
#3 Slavko Vukšić, businessman and leader and small regionalist party in Slavonia, former member of Sabor, inedpedent candidate
Pro: claims to be successful businessman and entertaining with his absence of "proper" etiquette
Con: complete lack of any coherent policy; vote for him would be complete waste
Chances: Snowball in hell
#4 Miroslav Tuđman, university professor, son of late president, former intelligence chief and leader of neo-Tudjmanist political party
Pro: accuses his father's former party - HDZ - of betrayal, thus exposing the hypocrisy of current political establishment; one of the rarely consisent and principled politicians in Croatia
Con: "unreformed" hardline views that would create too much mess both in Croatian internal politics, as well in relations with neighbours
Chances: might defy polls and win double digits; anything above that (including 2nd round) is in fantasy domain
#5 Dragan Primorac, former minister of education
Pro: very smooth campaign that tries to portray him as "cool", modern and hip; leftists among campaign staff, which would signal non-ideological presidency; one of better minister in Sanader's cabinet
Con: too much of political opportunism in the past, including last-minute entry into HDZ
Chances: almost none, looked big in the beginning, than got destroyed in one TV debate
#6 Andrija Hebrang, former minister of health and defence, former Tudjman's personal doctor, official HDZ candidate
Pro: recently discovered sense of humour, liberal views in some social issues (abortion)
Con: hardline nationalist views in almost anything else, reputation of meanness, witch hunts against liberal and left-meaning media in the past
Chances: could make something of surprise, but 2nd round doesn't seem very likely
#7 Vesna Pusić, leader of HNS
Pro: one of the more consistent liberals among Croatian politician; one of few who dares to tell express some unpopular views about Croatian role in Bosnian War; good international experience and credentials that could make her great diplomatic asset
Con: snobbish attitude that make her poster girl for phrase "Ivory Tower intellectual"; disdain towards anyone less educated than her; Euro-dogmatic who tends to view Brussels in the same way petty Soviet aparatchicks viewed Kremlin; if elected, she would be more hated than Tudjman or Mesić; finally, part of Croatian political establishment
Chances: Snowball in hell
#8 Milan Bandić, mayor of Zagreb
Pro: workaholic; undisputedly successful populist, Man of the People who tries (and succeeds) in bridging various ideological gaps - supporting both Thompson's and Lepa Brena's concerts in Zagreb; in 1990s single-handedly turned Zagreb into SDP stronghold; very good choice for president in case of war and other situations that require national unity
Con: lack of education; not speaking single foreign language; many of his associates belong to Croatian hard right; arrogance towards media and opponents; plenty of corruption charges; poor handling of Zagreb finances during economic crisis; demonised by media and likely to be the most despised president if elected
Chances: very good, depending on whether he could beat Nadan Vidošević and enter 2nd round; then he is likely to make minced meat out of Josipović
#9 Ivo Josipović, SDP candidate
Pro: quiet, unobtrusive technocrat who seems to know what he is doing; least likely to create hatred or bad feeling if elected; his election as SDP candidate would be the quickest way to established some kind of balance towards Jadranka Kosor's HDZ cabinet
Con: apparent lack of character and spine; too many favour owed to the Party and Zoran Milanović; in most political issues follows the establishment line; involvement in some minor controversies regarding copyright laws
Chances: actually very good; the only candidate who could expect 2nd round and leads most polls when faced against Bandić and Vidošević
#10 Vesna Škare-Ožbolt, former Tudjman's presidential advisor and wartime negotiator, former Sanader's minister of justice, leader of Democratic Centre party
Pro: her negotiatiating experience could benefit Croatian diplomacy; as a blogger she is one of the "coolest" candidates and truly formidable opposition leader
Con: her record of justice minister leaves much to be desired; vote for her is complete waste
Chances: Snowball in hell
#11 Damir Kajin, member of Sabor and IDS candidate
Pro: most radical critic of HDZ government and Croatian political establishmnent; unashamedly leftist and uncormpromisingly hostile towards Croatian nationalist right
Con: messy family life and finances; likes to drink; hostile mentality; if elected, likely to create even more controversies and bad feeling than Tudjman; vote for him might be a spoiler
Chances: snowball in hell
#12 Nadan Vidošević, chairman of Croatian Chamber of Commerce, businessman, former minister of economy
Pro: ran probably the best campaign of them all; successfully presented himself as "cool", very modern and "hip"; superb command of economic issues; good international experience; took support from both sides of political spectrum; his entry in 2nd round would knock Bandić out; last, but not least, he grew up in the same neighbourhood as the author of this post
Con: all too convenient political opportunism; serious corruption charges related to infamous 1990s privatisation
Chances: depending on polls, he either leads or trails Bandić in the race for 2nd place; currently trailing Josipović in hypothetical 2nd round match-up; yet, writing him off would be folly
Based on my preferences, I decided to cast my vote for Vidošević. This is partly because he ran really good campaign and this should be rewarded, and partly for tactical reasons. With Josipović secure in 1st place, the real issue of 1st round is his immediate opponent. Vidošević is at this moment preferable option to Bandić, so I decided to play it safe. Vote for anyone else - including Josipović - is at this time vote for Bandić,
Croatian media didn't appear to pay much attention to presidential elections in Romania. One of possible explanations could be in the result of Romanian contest, which looks eerily similar to what appear to be the most likely outcome of Croatian presidential contest - left-wing candidate leading after first round of voting, only to be crushed by united right-wing and expat vote in second.
Croatian media - just like in 2005 - desperately tries to make the presidential contest as "tight" and unpredictable as possible. In case of 2010 election, this tightness and unpredictability appears to be limited to first round only. With SDP candidate Ivo Josipović leading relatively comfortably with 25-30 percent in polls, the real battle is waged with not two, but four right-wing candidates. One of them is going to be qualified for second round and expect to harvest most of the votes among the remaining three.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Milan Bandić, popular and controversial Zagreb mayor who got bolted from SDP following announcement of independent run, is a favourite with cca. 15 percent of vote. Yet, despite lavish campaign, he never managed to escape from third-placed Nadan Vidošević, who is not far with 13 percent. Surprisingly, two other candidates also take double digits in poll - former education and science minister Dragan Primorac ("affectionately" called Psycho) and Andrija Hebrang, official HDZ candidate whowas, until very recently, all but written-off as serious candidate.
Fiercest battle, so far, appears to be between Vidošević and Primorac who - as educated and "urban" public figures - are fighting for the same moderate, centrist electorate. Primorac publicly accused Vidošević of enriching himself in 1990s through not-so-legal means, while Vidošević accusses former minister of beating his ex-girlfriend.
All this presidential drama, which left many of former Croatian political junkies uncharacteristically cold and cynical, is happening in the shadow of political process which some began to call Desandaresiation. New prime minister Jadranka Kosor does everything in her power to distance herself from the former prime minister and her mentor Ivo Sanader, including tipping friendly media about very unsubtle removal of Sanader's official photographs from HDZ headquarters. In the meantime, soon-to-be-ex President Stipe Mesić all but demands immediate arrest of Sanader over his role in serious of corruption affairs - something that didn't bother him much during Sanader's six years in office, where two men used to be model of friendly political cohabitation.