Milo Djukanovic's DPS claims victory in Montenegro presidential election

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

Montenegro vote tests popularity of pro-Western leader

The vote Sunday may be the first due to the fact the Western military alliance was combined by Montenegro in December.

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

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

Podgorica. The people of Montenegro began voting Sunday in polls expected to see pro-Western former prime minister Milo Djukanovic elected as president of the tiny Balkan nation that is aspiring to join the EU, AFP reported.Having dominated politics in the former Yugoslav republic for almost 25 years, Djukanovic stepped down as prime minister in October 2016.

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. He hopes next to steer the country into the European Union. "The time has come for us to complete the job we started 20 years ago".

He was prime minister during a tense October 2016 parliamentary election when authorities said they thwarted a pro-Russian coup attempt created to prevent the country from joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Bojanic, who was backed by several opposition groups, including pro-Russian ones, vowed to continue his struggle against Djukanovic, describing him as "the man holding Montenegro and its institutions hostage".

During the campaign, opposition candidates have accused Djukanovic of fostering cronyism, nepotism, corruption and ties with organized crime, which he denies. Bojanic said Djukanovic "cannot be the solution because he is the creator of the instability and chaos that we witness in the streets of Montenegro".

Analyst Sergej Sekulovic believes Djukanovic needs a triumph in the first round, and even a runoff vote would signal a possible shift in public opinion.

The victory of Djukanovic was celebrated at the headquarters of DPS.

Djukanovic, the country's dominant politician, and his Democratic Party of Socialists have ruled Montenegro for almost 30 years.

Djukanovic has pared back his anti-Russian rhetoric saying he wanted "normal relations with Russia if it is prepared to do the same", but he has also said he wants the country to "remain on its road of development", which would be better achieved through ties with Brussels. Lawmaker Draginja Vuksanovic is the first-ever female presidential candidate in the staunchly conservative, male-dominated society.

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