Anti-Russian Milo Djukanovic favourite to win Montenegro election

Anti-Russian Milo Djukanovic favourite to win Montenegro election

If confirmed in the official vote count, the result will present a major boost for Djukanovic and his ruling Democratic Party of Socialists.

The Center for Election Monitoring (CeMI) projected Djukanovic winning over 53 percent of the vote, which would give him an outright victory in Sunday's election.

Preliminary results of Sunday's presidential elections in Montenegro show Milo Djukanovic, the leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, has won another term as head of state after serving as Prime Minister six times and as President once.

"After this overwhelming and superior result you should reconsider your political position", he said in a direct message to opposition leaders.

But for the 620,000 people in Montenegro, their votes may have been swayed by what work prospects are offered by the candidates rather than ties to the West or Russian Federation. He hopes next to steer the country into the European Union.

Biljana Popovic from the Centre for Democratic Transition, one of the NGOs monitoring the vote, said there were "a few irregularities that so far are not likely to affect the election".

Djukanovic was prime minister during a tense October 2016 parliamentary election when authorities said they thwarted a pro-Russian coup attempt created to prevent the country from joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Djukanovic, a former prime minister and the country's dominant politician, and the Democratic Party of Socialists have ruled Montenegro for almost 30 years.

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The issue of organised crime has cast a shadow on the campaign, with some 20 people killed by assassination or auto bombs over the last two years.

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.

On Sunday Bojanic said he voted to "put an end to the reign of an autocrat who wants to turn Montenegro into a dictatorship".

Mr Djukanovic has been accused by the opposition of being linked to the mafia, which he denies.

"I will win today", Djukanovic had said after voting.

Challenger Bojanic, who was backed by several opposition groups, including pro-Russian ones, vowed to continue his struggle against Djukanovic, describing him as "the man holding Montenegro and its institutions hostage".

With Montenegro's average salary at around 500 euros ($615) and unemployment at over 20 percent, the debate over the West versus Russian Federation is not the main concern of many Montenegrins.

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