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Croatia’s Presidential Race Begins

January 8, 2000

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ Contenders in Croatia’s presidential race formally kicked off their campaigns Saturday, scrambling to meet as many people as possible before voters head to the polls to pick a successor to the late Franjo Tudjman.

Foreign Minister Mate Granic, considered the favorite in the Jan. 24 presidential race, held a rally in his hometown of Baska Voda, some 190 miles from the capital, Zagreb. The moderate politician hopes his familiarity as a longtime foreign minister will help propel him into office.

His main rival, Drazen Budisa, whose coalition crushed Granic’s Croatian Democratic Union party in recent parliamentary elections, was also getting ready to hit the campaign trail Saturday.

Budisa’s double-decker bus will zigzag the claw-shaped country, visiting 100 towns to give voters a chance to meet the man who says he wants to be their ``neighborly president.″

Stipe Mesic, a former Croat representative under the old Yugoslav presidency, is the only other candidate with a chance of hindering Granic and Budisa. But Mesic will have a tough time winning exposure in the state-run media.

Tudjman, who led the country to independence in 1991, died midway through his second term last December following a long bout with cancer.

Croatia’s constitution stipulates that a president must be elected within 60 days. Parliament speaker, Vlatko Pavletic, has assumed presidential duties until a new leader is chosen but will not be running in the upcoming elections.

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