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Croatia president blames poll defeat on sexism, ‘fake news’

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Croatia’s outgoing president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic delivers a speech on January 5, 2020, in Zagreb, after initial results showed her opponent winning Croatia’s presidential election. – A leftist former prime minister, who has pledged to make Croatia a tolerant country turning the page on its wartime past, has defeated the incumbent conservative in a presidential run-off vote on January 5, official results showed. (Photo by – / AFP)

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Saturday blamed sexism and “fake news” for her defeat in elections last week, as well as a rival who split the right-wing electorate she was counting on.

Speaking to journalists in her official Zagreb palace, Grabar-Kitarovic blasted what she saw as often politically biased media in Croatia.

“In Croatia we have not only press freedom, but we also have complete chaos in the media,” she said, alleging that “some criminal organisations are paying” certain outlets. She did not cite specific examples.

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Leftist former prime minister Zoran Milanovic won the January 5 election and takes up the post during Croatia’s helm at the rotating EU presidency. Issues such as the European Union’s relationship with post-Brexit Britain and haggling over the bloc’s long-term budget are likely to dominate.

Grabar-Kitarovic said that, with Milanovic, she hoped media reporting in her country “will calm down a bit, because he’s a male”.

Analysts, however, say that Grabar-Kitarovic’s defeat owed to a poor campaign riddled with gaffes and embarrassing promises, such as one to increase monthly salaries to 8,000 euros — nearly 10 times the current average.

She also invited anger and mockery when she sang at the birthday party of Zagreb’s scandal-hit mayor and promised to bring him “cakes… in prison” if he was convicted on a slew of corruption charges.

The 51-year-old outgoing president denied knowledge of any corruption when she served in government as a minister.

She also said she was going to take “a couple of months” to decide what to do after leaving office, expressing a preference for academia.

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