On Sunday, we will know all the winners and losers of the 2017 local elections.
Two weeks after the first round, this Sunday brings us the second round of the local elections. All those counties, towns and municipalities in which no candidate managed to win an outright majority in the first round will vote again, this time with just the two best-placed candidates fighting for a win. Here are some of the more exciting races:
Milan Bandić – 31%
Anka Mrak Taritaš – 25%
After 17 years as mayor, many thought this might finally be an election which Milan Bandić will lose. Although pre-election polls showed that Bandić might come second in the first round, he managed to score a relative win, with a 6% difference ahead of his main opponent, HNS’s Anka Mrak Taritaš. He won with just 31%, which is his worst result ever but still probably enough to win in the second round. Mrak Taritaš said she would try to turn the second round into a referendum on Bandić. However, her campaign has been lackluster and the feeling is that Bandić will probably win with a slight margin ahead of his opponent. If Mrak Taritaš does manage to win, it would be a spectacular success primarily for her personally, since she is much more popular than her party. Rumours about the possibility that HNS might enter into a coalition with HDZ at the national level certainly did not help her, since some of the left-leaning voters might stay at home on Sunday.
Željko Kerum – 30%
Andro Krstulović Opara – 26%
This is probably the most interesting race of them all. Željko Kerum is a former mayor (2009-2013) and a rather flamboyant and controversial entrepreneur, while Krstulović Opara is HDZ’s candidate selected by party president and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković. HDZ hopes for a win, which would be a major success for the party which has not had a mayor in Split for eight years. Although several months ago it seemed likely that Opara would win without major problems, support for Kerum has been surprisingly strong and he has managed to win in the first round. The feeling is that he might repeat his success on Sunday as well, with the support of those voters who are sick of mainstream political parties. It is entirely possible that the majority of HDZ voters will vote for him since they consider him to be closer to their worldview than the more moderate Opara, who might be supported by centrist and left-leaning voters. The campaign for the second round in Split has been much more lively than the one in Zagreb and has included quite a lot of insults and threats. A poll released on Wednesday evening showed Kerum holding a small lead heading into the second round.
Vojko Obersnel – 41%
Hrvoje Burić – 18%
Anything other than a convincing win for current Mayor Obersnel (SDP) would be a major surprise in Rijeka. SDP has been in power in the town for the last 27 years and, despite declining support, it is still probably robust enough to win again. Hrvoje Burić was HDZ’s candidate four years ago and is now running as an independent, aware that a candidate with HDZ next to his name would have no chances of winning. As an independent candidate, he might win over some of the disappointed voters – but probably still not nearly enough to defeat Obersnel.
Ivan Vrkić – 37%
Ivana Šojat – 17%
No major surprises are expected in Osijek. Current Mayor Ivan Vrkić, supported by SDP and HNS, is a firm favorite for another term. His opponent, Ivana Šojat (HDZ), is a writer and not a politician, so it is hard to expect she might win enough votes to defeat him. Vrkić has demonstrated that he is capable of working together with representatives of virtually all political parties, so it is likely that he will attract some votes from the right-leaning voters as well.
Mato Franković – 32%
Valentin Dujmović – 16%
Long-time Mayor of Dubrovnik Andro Vlahušić (HNS) was unable to run again, due to the newly-adopted law which bans candidates with active court verdicts, so he was replaced by Dujmović. While it can be assumed that the controversial Vlahušić would be the favourite, his substitute came only second, behind HDZ’s Mato Franković. Although Franković’s lead is substantial, it is still possible that Dujmović might attract enough votes from candidates eliminated in the first round to make the election in Dubrovnik at least interesting.
Ivan Čehok – 41%
Alen Kišić – 22%
There is little doubt that former Varaždin Mayor Ivan Čehok will return to the town hall. His political career was dead just a few years ago when he was arrested for corruption. Of course, the trial has not yet begun, and it seems that the people of Varaždin have decided that they do not mind supporting a candidate with ethical question marks lingering above their names (and they are not the only ones who feel that way in Croatia).
Katarina Ujdur – 41%
Dalibor Milan – 39%
Metković is the stronghold of MOST, but their candidate Katarina Ujdur did not manage to win in the first round. She will face HDZ’s Dalibor Milan, who has the support of MOST’s nemesis, Stipo Gabrić, who has called on his supporters to vote for Milan. MOST’s first success came four years ago when they manage to defeat then Metković Mayor Gabrić, accusing him of corruption. He now hopes to return the sentiment.
Marko Jelić – 49%
Josipa Rimac – 39%
Although HDZ usually wins in Knin, their candidate, and long-time Mayor Josipa Rimac somewhat unexpectedly lost in the first round. Independent candidate Marko Jelić was just a few votes short from winning outright in the first round. HDZ will do all it can to prevent the fall of Knin, a symbolically important town for them, but it will be tough to prevent Jelić from getting just a few more votes.
Split-Dalmatia County Prefect
Blaženko Boban – 42%
Miro Bulj – 23%
Among county prefects, probably the most interesting race is the one for prefect of Split-Dalmatia County. HDZ had to change its candidate just a few weeks before the elections due to a scandal with a concession for Croatia’s most famous beach, Zlatni Rat on the island of Brač. However, the substitute candidate managed to win 42% and achieve a healthy lead ahead of MOST’s Miro Bulj, who will now receive the support of all those who do not want to see HDZ stay in power. Still, it is unlikely that Bulj might win, given that HDZ very rarely loses in Dalmatia on the county level.
Dubrovnik-Neretva County Prefect
Nikola Dobroslavić – 48%
Nikola Grmoja – 27%
This is the second county in which MOST had hoped to score a win against HDZ. However, HDZ’s Dobroslavić is far ahead and was very close to getting the needed majority in the first round. While MOST have some chance in Split-Dalmatia County, in Dubrovnik-Neretva County it seems quite clear who will win.
Vukovar-Srijem County Prefect
Božo Galić – 47%
Tomislav Panenić – 25%
This is the third county with an HDZ-MOST battle in the second round. Similar to Dubrovnik, MOST’s candidate is behind and has only theoretical chances of winning. Not even the support of former Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković was enough to bring enough votes to Panenić to seriously threaten HDZ’s hold over the easternmost county.
The polling stations will be open on Sunday from 7 am to 7 pm, when exit polls are expected. The actual results will start arriving starting somewhere around 9.30 pm.