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Ivo Josipovic aims to be Croatia’s quiet revolutionary

The new president has been ruffling feathers at home while making friends and influencing people abroad – boosting his country’s international standing as a result. Guy Norton reports from Zagreb.

Ivo Josipovic, Croatia's third President

"I’ve touched on areas of policy that before were untouchable. Strong messages provoke strong reactions"

Ivo Josipovic

CROATIAN PRESS REPORTS about the two-round presidential elections in Croatia in December 2009 and January 2010 might lead one to believe that life under the eventual winner, Ivo Josipovic, would be one long snooze-athon.

Columnists aplenty bemoaned the fact that the former law professor lacked the obvious showbiz appeal of other presidential wannabes such as Nenad Vidosevic – dubbed the George Clooney of Croatian politics – or Milan Bandic, the colourful if controversial mayor of Zagreb, who Josipovic beat comfortably in the second round of voting to secure the presidency.

In a country that has spawned more than its fair share of demagogues over the years, Josipovic’s professorial air seemed lacklustre in comparison with some of his rivals. Yet as anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Balkans knows, you should always expect the unexpected. And so it has proved. First, Josipovic’s superficially dull, if worthy, electoral campaign based on a simple message of wanting to create a fairer, more prosperous Croatia captured the public imagination at a time when the country was reeling from the double-whammy negatives of corruption scandals alongside a sharp economic downturn.

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