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Djukanovic declares victory in Montenegro presidential elections
16 April 2018, 06:16 | Erica Roy
Montenegro elections likely to mark closer relations with both Russia and the West
Voting has begun in Montenegro with pro-western former prime minister Milo Djukanovic expected to be elected president of the small Balkan country.
However, the DPS and Djukanovic led Montenegro into North Atlantic Treaty Organisation previous year and have pledged to complete talks for European Union membership.
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%).
The veteran leader Milo Djukanovic has declared victory in the Montenegrin presidential polls amid reports of voting irregularities.
Montenegro's presidency is a ceremonial post, but is expected to become the real seat of power in the country if 56-year-old Djukanovic is confirmed as the victor.
Opinion polls indicated he was such a strong favourite that he may be able to win more than half of the votes, which would rule out a run-off planned for April 29.
His main opponent is Mladen Bojanić, a businessman supported by several parties, including pro-Russian contingents.
The issue of organised crime has cast a shadow on the campaign, with some 20 people killed by assassination or vehicle 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 opposition says Djukanovic has ties to the mafia, an accusation he has denied. "But the problem is that I do not know which side he is on", he added.
"I am expecting. Djukanovic to win", Zdravko Ivanovic, an 84-year-old pensioner said after casting his vote.
"The opposition proposes to be a Russian province" and defends "a retrograde policy on the multi-ethnic lifestyle in Montenegro", however accused Milo Djukanovic, who can count on the massive support of Croatian, Albanian and Bosnian minorities who weigh for 15% of the electorate.
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.
Milo Djukanovic seems to moderate his rhetoric hostile to the Kremlin, saying he is ready to "establish normal relations with Russian Federation, if it is also ready to do so".
In the run-up to the vote, local newspapers have alleged electoral fraud, saying many dead people figured on voters' lists.
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