Published: Mon, April 16, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

Presidential election in Montenegro: Djukanovic in search of return

Presidential election in Montenegro: Djukanovic in search of return

Preliminary projections show six-time prime minister and onetime president Milo Djukanovic as the victor of Montenegro's presidential election.

If confirmed, the result is an approbation for his move past year to defy Moscow and take Montenegro into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The Balkan nation's ruling social democrat party declared its head Milo Djukanovic the victor after 90% of the votes were counted, winning 53% of the ballots.

In Podgorica, where more than a third of the country's population lives, the giant posters of Djukanovic, "leader, statesman, president of all citizens", have won the lion's share of the billboards, leaving the parcel to his six opponents.

Opinion polls predict a first-round victory but if the veteran politician is forced into a run-off he will have to face voters again on 29 April.

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Mladen Bojanic was Djukanovic's main rival, having been put forward by the leading opposition party, the Democratic Front, which prefers closer ties to Russian Federation and accuses Djukanovic of both nepotism and corruption.

"I will win today", Djukanovic predicted after voting.

The country has also been marred by organized crime, with about 20 people killed by assassinations or auto bombs over the last two years.

Mr Bojanic said Mr Djukanovic "cannot be the solution because he is the creator of the instability and chaos that we witness in the streets of Montenegro".

The ballot count by the state election commission confirmed the trend, giving Djukanovic, 56, an even greater lead. "But the problem is that I do not know which side he is on", he added.

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Pro-Russian Marko Milacic, a candidate forecasted to win just three percent of the vote, accuses Djukanovic of being most responsible for the "situation in the country, from bloody streets to the foreign policy and a ruined economy".

As Montenegro has joined the West in sanctioning Russia over its annexation of Crimea and recently expelled a Russian diplomat given Britain's nerve agent attack, Russia may need to rethink its strategies in the Balkans if it seeks to maintain influence.

The opposition Democrats (Demokrate) said they obtained evidence of alleged "vote buying" in the town of Berane.

For Djukanovic, however, the choice between Brussels and Moscow is crucial to whether Montenegro will "remain on its road of development".

But he toned down the anti-Russian rhetoric, saying he wanted "normal relations with Russia if it is prepared to do the same".

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The EU in its 2016 progress report told the country it should continue its efforts to reduce organised crime, especially human trafficking and money laundering.

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