Milo Djukanovic wins Montenegro's presidential election

Milo Djukanovic wins Montenegro's presidential election

Montenegro's former Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic on Sunday claimed victory in the presidential election, according to an NGO monitoring the polls.

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.

Milo Djukanovic, the presidential candidate of the ruling DPS party (Democratic Party of Socialists), speaks during the meeting with his supporters in the DPS' headquarters in Podgorica, Montenegro, April 15, 2018.

Djukanovic who has served as the prime minister of Montenegro for six terms, and one term as president, told a press conference Sunday night at his party headquarters that "another valuable victory was achieved for the benefit of the European future of Montenegro". President Filip Vujanovic, also of the ruling party, was not running due to term limits.

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

Mr Bojanic said Mr Djukanovic "cannot be the solution because he is the creator of the instability and chaos that we witness in the streets of Montenegro".

The turnout was 64 per cent out of nearly 530,000 eligible voters in the small Adriatic country of some 650,000 people.

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

Challenger 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".

Djukanovic's election team earlier announced his victory.

Theresa May has on several occasions cited Montenegro as an example of where Russian Federation has repeatedly meddled in a country's politics. The results showed that Djukanovic won a large enough percentage to avoid a runoff election. The average salary in Montenegro sits at around €500 ($615) and unemployment is more than 20 percent.

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

But he toned down the anti-Russian rhetoric, saying he wanted "normal relations with Russia if it is prepared to do the same".

Along with Serbia, Montenegro is the favourite to join the European Union next, possibly as early as 2025.

The state election commission said turnout at 7.30 p.m (1730 GMT), half an hour before polling closed, was 61.6 percent.

Montenegro appears to have elected a president vying to develop closer ties with the West, according to initial projections.