12 to run for president
Zagreb - Twelve candidates will compete in Croatia's presidential election on December 27 to replace veteran reformer Stjepan Mesic, whose second five-year term expires in early 2010.
"We received 21 candidacies, of which 12 are valid...The pre-election campaign begins on Thursday," the state electoral commission's president, Branko Hrvatin, said on Wednesday.
The role of head of state is largely ceremonial, but the president has a say in foreign and security policy and can demand the government hold Cabinet sessions on specific issues.
The new president will oversee Croatia's accession to the European Union as the former Yugoslav republic hopes to wrap up entry talks next year and join in 2012.
If no candidate gets more than 50% of votes, the two leading candidates will face a second round on January 10.
Most opinion polls have so far given a solid advantage to law professor Ivo Josipovic, the candidate of the biggest opposition party, Social Democrats.
Polls show the ruling conservative HDZ's candidate, radiologist Andrija Hebrang, trailing behind Josipovic and two independent candidates.