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Croatia to hold presidential vote on Dec. 22: PM Plenkovic

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia will hold its presidential election on Dec. 22, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Thursday.

The election will pit the incumbent Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, candidate of the ruling center-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), against the candidate of the Social Democrats and former prime minister Zoran Milanovic. Two independent candidates also have solid support in the polls.

The job is largely ceremonial. The president cannot veto laws but has a say in foreign policy and defense.

According to the most recent opinion poll, in the first round of the vote Grabar-Kitarovic can expect support of some 29 percent of voters, while Milanovic is second with 24 percent.

Miroslav Skoro, popular singer and largely seen as the candidate of the right-wing nationalist conservatives, came third with 17 percent and a former judge Mislav Kolakusic got 14 percent.

Altogether around a dozen people voiced their intention to run for the presidency, among them a showbiz celebrity who was also a Playboy model. They all now have to collect 10,000 signatures of citizens in the next 10 days to confirm their candidacy.

Grabar-Kitarovic's five-year term is seen by some observers as having little policy substance domestically while often trying to promote her popularity through populist patriotic rhetoric.

She has been somewhat more concrete in foreign policy, promoting the so-called "Three Seas Initiative", a stage for boosting political and economic ties between the European Union members in central and eastern Europe.

If no one wins an outright majority in the first round, the second round will take place on Jan. 5, 2020.

The results of the presidential election will also be an early indication of the mood among the voters ahead of the parliamentary election due to take place in late 2020.

(Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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