Incumbent wins Montenegr presidential election
PODGORICA, Montenegro — Incumbent Filip Vujanovic claimed victory Sunday in Montenegro’s first presidential elections since the tiny Balkan nation split from Serbia.
Huge fireworks lit the sky over the capital, and Vujanovic’s supporters honked car horns and waved Montenegro’s red flags with a golden eagle in downtown Podgorica after the results from independent observers were announced over state television.
The Center for Monitoring said Vujanovic won 51.4 percent of the vote, pro-Serb challenger Andrija Mandic had 20.4 percent while liberal candidate Nebojsa Medojevic had 15.7 percent for third place. The group cited the final vote count by its own monitors at polling stations.
Official results are expected Monday.
Medojevic conceded defeat, with his party Movement for Change citing the same figures.
Vujanovic, of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists — one of the staunchest advocates of Montenegro’s split from Serbia two years ago — said his victory shows that "a majority of Montenegrins support our policies."
"I won for Montenegro and its future," Vujanovic told hundreds of his cheering supporters. "I will be the president of all the people in Montenegro."
The voting cemented the independence of the Adriatic Sea nation of 620,000 people. It also was a test for Vujanovic’s reformed socialists, who have ruled virtually unchallenged for nearly two decades.
Turnout was 69 percent, about 22 percentage points higher than in 2003, when Vujanovic won his first five-year term, independent election observers said.
Ethnic Serbs, who make up about 30 percent of the population, are unhappy about Montenegro’s separation from Serbia following a May 2006 referendum. They are seeking closer political and economic ties with Belgrade, which have been chilly since the breakup.
Montenegro was an independent kingdom before World War I, then part of Yugoslavia until that nation disintegrated in violence in 1991.
Since independence from Serbia, Montenegro’s economy has boomed. Annual economic growth is about 8 percent and foreign direct investment since 2006 has been about $1.6 billion, propelling Montenegro to the top of Europe’s per capita foreign investment list.
But it has had trouble getting rid of its image as a society rife with corruption.
"The vote has shown that Montenegrins are still not ready for change of the corrupt and totalitarian regime," said Medojevic, the liberal challenger.