Incumbent, woman to vie for Croatian presidency
Croatia's incumbent President Stipe Mesic has overwhelmingly won the first round of elections taking 49 per cent of the vote, according to official results.
However, he now faces a run-off to win a second five-year term to lead the country as it seeks to join the European Union.
Mr Mesic will face conservative Deputy Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, who received 20.18 per cent of Sunday's vote, in the January 16 run-off.
Wealthy Croatian-US businessman Boris Miksic finished third with 17.8 per cent of the vote, the electoral commission said.
A jubilant Mr Mesic has urged voters to turn out in big numbers for the run-off, following a low turnout of 51 per cent on Sunday.
"Croatia must be a modern, European and democratic country with satisfied citizens," he said.
"It will be possible only if we change many things. We will decide where Croatia is heading, to the 21st Century or back in time. I offer the 21st Century."
Ms Kosor says Croatia is ready for a woman president.
"I am very happy that for the first time we have two candidates of which one is a woman," she said.
"This shows the maturity of voters since the most frequent question during the campaign was whether Croatia was mature enough to have a woman for a president."
Mr Mesic, 70, was heavily favored to win the vote to lead the former war-torn Yugoslav republic, with exit polls released immediately after voting stations closed showing he might win the 50 per cent needed to avoid the run-off.