Montenegro votes for new leader with pro-Western veteran tipped to win

Montenegro elections likely to mark closer relations with both Russia and the West

Preliminary projections show six-time prime minister and onetime president Milo Djukanovic as the victor of Montenegro's presidential election.

When supported, the outcome will present a big raise for Djukanovic, that defied this past year, Russian Federation to carry his own country.

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.

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%). "Djukanovic is the new president of Montenegro". President Filip Vujanovic, also of the ruling party, was not running due to term limits.

The former prime minister and his DPS have ruled the country for almost 30 years.

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

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

The opposition accuses Djukanovic of being linked to the mafia, which he denies.

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

The issue of organised crime cast a shadow on the campaign, with some 20 people killed by assassination or auto bombs over the last two years. Djukanovic challenger will be Mladen Bojanic, backed by resistance groups, for example types that are pro-Russian.

"I agree with Djukanovic that the state is stronger than the mafia". "I see this result as a proof of Montenegro's determination to move forward along the European path".

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.

The EU in its 2016 progress report told the country it should continue its efforts to reduce organised crime, especially human trafficking and money laundering.

In the run-up to the vote, local newspapers have alleged electoral fraud, saying many dead people figured on voters' lists.

His presidential candidacy is supported by the ruling coalition partner Social Democrats, as well as Bosniak, Croat and Albanian minorities.

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