Montenegro votes in presidential election According to Reuters


© Reuters. Voters line up at a polling station during the presidential election in Podgorica, Montenegro, March 19, 2023. REUTERS/Stevo Vasiljevic


By Aleksandar Vasovic

PODGORICA (Reuters) – The people of Montenegro voted on Sunday in a presidential election that will affect the outcome of a parliamentary vote in June as well as the small Adriatic nation’s stance toward the West and relations with neighboring Serbia.

Voting stations in Montenegro, a NATO member and candidate to join the European Union, open at 7 a.m. (06:00 GMT) and will close at 20:00 (19:00 GMT). The pollsters’ first unofficial results, based on a sample of voters, are expected about two hours later.

If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, a second round of voting between the top two candidates will be scheduled for April 2.

Milo Djukanovic, the pro-Western incumbent president, has held top political posts in the country for 33 years and is seeking another five-year term.

“This election is an opportunity for Montenegro to confirm that it can live in political and social stability… .

His main opponents are Andrija Mandic, head of the Democratic Front advocating closer ties with Serbia and Russia, and Jakov Milatovic, a pro-Western economist and deputy head of the Europe Now movement. in.

After the vote, Mandic told reporters that if he wins the election, his presidency will create “a policy of reconciliation that focuses on all citizens and will wage a vigorous fight against corruption and crime.” organized crime”.

Opponents accuse Djukanovic and his left-wing Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) of corruption, links to organized crime and running the country of about 620,000 people as their personal fiefdom – charges that Djukanovic and his party deny it.

“I’m sure everyone has decided to vote for a richer, fairer and more beautiful Montenegro,” Milatovic said after voting.

Sunday’s vote comes amid a year-long political crisis marked by votes of no-confidence in two separate governments and a dispute between lawmakers and Djukanovic over whether to convene an election. The president refused to appoint a new prime minister.

On Thursday, Djukanovic dissolved parliament and scheduled snap elections for June 11. A victory in the presidential election would increase the chances of the winner’s party in the parliamentary vote.

Mirjana Aleksic, 53, from Podgorica, said: “I’m expecting everyone…. we will start moving towards a better life,” after casting her vote at a polling station in one of the cities. local school.

For years, Montenegro has been divided between those who identify themselves as Montenegrin and those who consider themselves Serbs and oppose the country’s 2006 independence from its old alliance with the much larger and neighboring country. is Serbia.

The country, which relies heavily on revenue from Adriatic tourism, joined NATO in 2017, following a failed coup attempt a year earlier that the government blamed on Russian agents and populists. Serbian ethnicity. Moscow dismisses such claims as absurd.

After the invasion of Ukraine last year, Montenegro joined EU sanctions against Russia. The Kremlin has put Montenegro on its list of unfriendly countries.

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