Milo Djukanovic's DPS claims victory in Montenegro presidential election


Voting has begun in Montenegro with pro-western former prime minister Milo Djukanovic expected to be elected president of the small Balkan country.

In March he announced his bid to return to frontline politics and the 56-year-old economist wants to take the predominantly Orthodox country - which has pro-Russia sympathies - into the European Union following its admission to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in 2017.

According to head of the Center for Democratic Transition Milica Kovacevic, Djukanovic has garnered 54.2% of the vote, while Mladen Bojanic is second with 33.3%, the only female candidate Draginja Vuksanovic is third (8.1%) and leader of the Real Montenegro party Marko Milacic is fourth (2.7%). His party officials announced late on Sunday that Djukanovic, who has dominated politics in Montenegro for almost 25 years, had secured victory.

Political heavyweight Milo Djukanovic, bidding to take Montenegro into the European Union, swept back into power in Sunday's presidential election after a two-year absence. Current President Filip Vujanovic did not run due to term limits. "Congratulation to Montenegro citizens on free and democratic presidential elections".

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 continue to fight to free Montenegro of Djukanovic and his dictatorship", Bojanic said.

Earlier in the campaign he also accused Mr Djukanovic of being "the creator of the instability and chaos that we witness in the streets of Montenegro", referring to a rise in organised crime, including people trafficking.

The opposition says Djukanovic has ties to the mafia, an accusation he has denied.

His strongest rival is Bojanic, who has the support of most opposition parties, including pro-Russian factions, and is expected to secure around a third of the vote. "But the problem is that I do not know which side he is on", he added.

About 530,000 voters chose among several candidates in the Adriatic Sea nation that used to be part of Yugoslavia.

Monitoring agencies have confirmed Djukanovic's election win.

Low salaries and unemployment at above 20% means the debate over the West versus Russian Federation is not the main concern of many Montenegrins.

For Djukanovic, however, the choice between Brussels and Moscow is crucial to Montenegro's development.

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