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Cablegate: Ivo Josipovic Elected Croatia's Third President

VZCZCXRO4722
PP RUEHIK
DE RUEHVB #0016 0111220
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111220Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9793
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000016

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL HR
SUBJECT: IVO JOSIPOVIC ELECTED CROATIA'S THIRD PRESIDENT

REF: ZAGREB 0014

1. (U) Ivo Josipovic, candidate of the main opposition Social
Democratic Party (SDP), won the run-off election on January
10 garnering 60 percent of the vote to become Croatia's third
president. Just after midnight, the Croatian Electoral
Commission announced preliminary results (with 99 percent of
polling stations reporting) showing Josipovic with 60.3
percent and his opponent Milan Bandic at 39.7 percent.
Josipovic won an outright majority in 19 of 20 counties in
Croatia and in all major urban areas including the capital of
Zagreb, where Bandic is currently mayor. Turnout was
2,253,553 or 50.1% of registered voters. The one bright spot
for Bandic was among diaspora voters in Bosnia-Herzegovina,
where there was a record high turnout (compared to earlier
Croatian elections), and Bandic won 94 percent of the nearly
100,000 votes cast. Josipovic will be sworn in as president
at noon on February 18.

2. (U) Josipovic is a well-established expert on
international criminal law as well as an award winning
classical composer. He studied several months at Yale
University Law School in 1988 and participated in a
USG-sponsored International Visitors program in 2002 to
Washington, Denver, Cincinnati and New York that dealt with
US foreign policy and human rights issues. In his victory
speech Josipovic focused his most forceful comments on the
fight against corruption and said that Croatian citizens had
joined him in "a grand alliance for justice." He emphasized
"the need for us to unite in the fight against corruption and
crime, which are the most serious threats to economic
development, or any kind of social progress." Local media
are hailing Josipovic's victory as a triumph of European
values and a win for all Croatians who value honesty in
government. Incumbent president Stjepan Mesic described
Josipovic's election as a victory for a democratic and
European Croatia. Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor
congratulated Josipovic and voiced her confidence that they
could work together to achieve Croatia's entry into the EU.

3. (SBU) COMMENT: Given Bandic's reputation for cronyism and
the allegations of corruption connected to his management of
Zagreb, Josipovic's victory provides reassurance that
Croatia's recently invigorated efforts to address public
corruption can be sustained. This will be particularly
helpful as Croatia strives to meet the final requirements for
EU accession in the coming year. It is also at least part of
the reason why PM Kosor imposed a position of strict
neutrality on her HDZ party structures in the second round,
resisting any temptation to try and defeat Josipovic and
thereby weaken the HDZ's greatest rival, the SDP.
Josipovic's long-standing support of Croatian cooperation
with the ICTY could also help the GoC to resolve the
continuing concerns among certain EU member states about
whether Croatia is truly meeting all of its obligations to
the Court. As for relations with the US, Josipovic has been
a close contact of the Embassy for many years, and while
occasionally critical that the US has not always been
consistent in our promotion of human rights, he has generally
been pro-American in his views. On issue of particular
interest to the U.S., Josipovic has publicly supported
Croatia's participation in NATO's ISAF mission. END COMMENT
WALKER

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