ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia’s former prime minister and main opposition leader, Ivica Racan, died of cancer on Sunday, aged 63.
Following are some key facts about him:
* Born February 24, 1944 in Nazi Germany, where both his parents were put in a concentration camp as enemies of fascism. His father died there while his mother was taken in by a local German family. Racan started as a communist in Socialist Yugoslavia and was a career politician all his life.
* In 1990, as head of the Croatian Communist Party, he allowed the first free elections, which brought the nationalist, independence-seeking HDZ to power and led to Croatia’s secession from Yugoslavia. During the next decade, his renamed Social Democratic Party (SDP) remained in opposition.
* In January 2000, led a broad, center-left coalition that ousted the HDZ in a parliamentary election and, as prime minister, he set about political and economic reforms that led Croatia out of international isolation and set it on the road towards European Union membership.
* In November 2003, he lost an election to a reformed HDZ, refusing to seek a new broad coalition that could have kept him in power. As the chief opposition leader, he was named the head of the national committee supervising EU membership talks.
* In January this year, he announced he had tumor in his right shoulder. Further tests established it was a kidney cancer that had already spread through his body and brain. On April 11, he quit all positions in the party and urged it to elect a successor.