Veteran pro-EU candidate Djukanovic set to win Montenegro presidency -projection

Montenegro goes to the polls with EU membership at stake

Montenegro's former Prime Minister and former President Milo Djukanovic, the leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, has claimed to have won the Sunday presidential election and pledged to ensure the country's European Union membership before the end of his five-year presidential term.

The pro-European leader defied Russian Federation past year by taking the Balkan State into North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Mladen Bojanic, a businessman backed by an alliance of parties, including some wanting closer ties with Russian Federation, was set to come second with 33 percent, according to a projection by the Centre for Monitoring and Research (CeMI) pollster, based on a representative sample of polling stations.

Milos Nikolic, a spokesman for the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, said: "Milo Djukanovic is the new president of Montenegro. this is a great victory, a historic victory".

"Just as we said, we have received 54% of the vote in the first round of the election and left the other six candidates behind", Djukanovic said at his election headquarters.

Djukanovic, the country's dominant politician, and his party have ruled Montenegro for almost 30 years.

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

Sunday's vote passed off peacefully amid fears of disorder after 20 people were arrested and accused of trying to stage a coup during legislative elections in 2016.

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

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Bojanic conceded defeat, saying: "Montenegro chose the way it chose".

Theresa May has on several occasions cited Montenegro as an example of where Russian Federation has repeatedly meddled in a country's politics.

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

Surveys indicate Djukanovic can win over 1 / 2 of those votes and also prevent a runoff.

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

The EU in its 2016 country progress report told Montenegro it should continue its efforts to reduce organised crime, in particular on human trafficking and money laundering, and also noted the problem of global cigarette smuggling through the port of Bar.

The last turnout figures, one hour before the closing of the polls, was 58.5 percent, down from the 2016 elections.

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

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