Montenegro elects pro-West president Milo Djukanovic, projections show

Montenegro elects pro-West president Milo Djukanovic, projections show

With 95 per cent of the ballots counted, exit polls suggest Djukanovic won 53.9 per cent of the votes, securing victory in the first round.

Montenegro's former prime minister and long-ruling Democratic Party of Socialists leader Milo Djukanovic speaks during a celebration after presidential elections in Montenegro's capital, Podgorica, on Sunday.

In March he announced his bid to return to frontline politics and the 56-year-old economist wants to take the predominantly Orthodox country - which has pro-Russia sympathies - into the European Union following its admission to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in 2017.

"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.

According to Center for Democratic Transition (CDT), nearly 90.5 percent of the total votes have been counted and Djukanovic got 54.2 percent of the votes in his favor.

Businessman Mladen Bojanic was projected for second place with 34.2 percent.

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

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

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.

Monitoring agencies have confirmed Djukanovic's election win.

The country has also been marred by organized crime, with about 20 people killed by assassinations or auto bombs over the last two years.

"As president, I will do everything in my give the police the authority that would allow them to protect citizens from those who put their lives in danger", Djukanovic said during the campaign.

Supported by the main opposition parties, whether pro-Russian or not, he is credited with about a third of the vote. 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".

Mr Djukanovic has been accused by the opposition of being linked to the mafia, which he denies. "I am confident that in the next five years we will make the final steps and achieve results that we have been planning to achieve on our 20-years-long road to European Union membership", he added.

Djukanovic had claimed the opposition wanted to turn the country into a "Russian province" and threaten Montenegro's multicultural way of life.

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

As Montenegro has joined the West in sanctioning Russia over its annexation of Crimea and recently expelled a Russian diplomat given Britain's nerve agent attack, Russia may need to rethink its strategies in the Balkans if it seeks to maintain influence.

For Djukanovic, however, the choice between Brussels and Moscow is crucial to whether Montenegro will "remain on its road of development".