ZAGREB, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Croatian voters began to cast their ballots in a presidential election at 7 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) on Sunday.
Over 3.8 million eligible voters will choose their president for the next five years from 11 candidates.
A record number of more than 24,000 observers will oversee the work of electoral committees on Sunday, according to the State Electoral Commission.
Croatia's president is elected by a majority vote. If none of the candidates obtains over 50 percent of the vote in the first round of voting, a second round will be held on Jan. 5 for the top two candidates.
Polling stations will close at 7 p.m. (1800 GMT), with the first results expected at 8 p.m. (1900 GMT).
Recent polls have shown that the incumbent president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, former prime minister Zoran Milanovic and popular singer Miroslav Skoro are the top three contenders.
Grabar-Kitarovic is running for a second term as the candidate of the Croatian Democratic Union, the ruling conservative political party. She is believed to have a slight lead going into the election, followed closely by Milanovic of the center-left Social Democratic Party, who is backed by the liberal opposition.
Skoro, who is running as a right-wing independent candidate, is trailing third.
This is the seventh presidential election in Croatia since the southeastern European country gained independence from former Yugoslavia in 1991.