Kreso Beljak, the mayor of Samobor, a town west of Zagreb, was elected on Saturday the new president of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), succeeding Branko Hrg.

Beljak was elected the new HSS leader in a second election round, having won 398 votes, while his rival Nenad Matic won 335 votes at today's party electoral convention.

A total of 737 party delegates took part in the vote, and there were four invalid ballots.

Beljak won the most votes, 339, also in the first election round held earlier in the day. Presenting his programme to party delegates, he said that he had decided to run for HSS president because he wanted the party to pursue politics rather than focus just on political positions.

"We are a part of the Patriotic Coalition and we will certainly stay a part of that coalition if the biggest partner, the HDZ, continues to behave as it has so far, correctly. The HSS's position at the moment is clear, we have one seat in the parliament and I don't see how we could decide about the fate or future of the country, the coalition or the government. We are simply not in a position to do so," Beljak told HSS delegates attending the electoral convention.

Asked by reporters why he was talking about one parliamentary seat considering that the party had two MPs - Branko Hrg and Davor Vlaovic, Beljak said that one seat was won in elections and that the other was ceded to the HSS.

Nenad Matic, who entered the second election round with 225 votes, said that the HSS should regain the strength it once used to have. "Rural areas come first, followed by consumer protection, environmental protection, crafts, small enterprises, economy, tourism and education - those sectors where we once used to have ministers," he said.

Matic said that the HSS would not and could not destabilise the government and would remain a partner in it and insist on the implementation of its programmes.

Branko Hrg, HSS president until today, did not win enough votes in the first election round to get to the second round.

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