Montenegro's veteran politician prepares to win the presidential vote: projections

PODGORICA (Reuters) – Veteran pro-EU politician Milo Djukanovic was to win the presidential election in Montenegro on Sunday with 54 percent of the vote, according to a projection from the monitoring and research center (CeMI) pollster

Milo Djukanovic, the presidential candidate of the ruling party DPS (Democratic Party of the Socialists), gesticulates as he arrives for the meeting with his supporters at the DPS headquarters in Podgorica, Montenegro, on April 15, 2018. REUTERS / Stevo Vasiljevic [19659003] Mladen Bojanic, a businessman backed by an alliance of parties, including some who wanted closer ties with Russia, was to come in second with 33 percent, CeMI said, based on a partial vote count on a sample of voting centers.

Djukanovic and his ruling Democratic Party of the Socialists (DPS) took Montenegro to NATO last year and pledged to complete the talks for EU membership.

"There will be no second round," Milos Nikolic, DPS parliamentary deputy, told reporters at the party headquarters. "Djukanovic is the new president of Montenegro."

Supporters of Milo Djukanovic, the presidential candidate of the ruling party DPS (Democratic Party of the Socialists), are seen at the DPS headquarters in Podgorica, Montenegro, on April 15, 2018. REUTERS / Marko Djurica

The state election commission said that participation at 7:30 pm (1730 GMT), half an hour before the closing of the polling stations, was 61.6 percent.

"This (result) is a serious indication of how the final results could be seen, although the results could be slightly skewed," said Milos Besic, a political science professor at the University of Belgrade who oversees Montenegro's vote.

Slide show (14 Images)

After casting his vote, Djukanovic said he was convinced he would win in the first round.

"I am convinced that Montenegro will confirm its determination to continue on the path of European development," said Djukanovic.

No significant electoral irregularities have been reported.

Although the presidential role is primarily ceremonial, if Djukanovic wins and replaces his ally Filip Vujanovic, he is expected to exercise a considerable policy of power and influence through the ranks of the DPS.

Having dominated politics in the tiny Adriatic country of only 620,000 and a former Yugoslav republic since 1991, either as prime minister or president, Djukanovic resigned as prime minister in 2016. He announced his return last month citing the " responsibility of the future of Montenegro. "

During the campaign, opposition candidates accused Djukanovic of fomenting cronyism, nepotism, corruption and ties to organized crime, which he denies.

"I'm proud of my result," Bojanic told the repoters after the screenings were released. "I will continue the fight to free Montenegro from the Djukanovic dictatorship," he said.

Report of Aleksandar Vasovic; Edition by Ivana Sekularac, Adrian Croft and David Evans

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