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News 07 Apr 13

Montenegro Presidency Rivals Both Claim Poll Victory

Incumbent Filip Vujanovic and his opponent Miodrag Lekic both declared that they had won the presidency after polls closed in Sunday’s vote in Montenegro.

Milena Milosevic

Vujanovic, of the governing Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, said his party's estimates suggested he had scored 51.3 per cent of the vote after all ballots were counted, giving him a third consecutive presidential election win.

But Lekic, who ran as an independent candidate although he leads the largest opposition group, the Democratic Front, said that he was the real victor and warned his opponent against fraud.

“We will not accept theft,” Lekic said.

Vujanovic said Lekic only won 48.7 per cent of the vote. But Lekic countered by saying he had attracted 50.5 per cent while Vujanovic won 49.5 per cent of the ballots cast.

“Based on 97 per cent of ballots counted, the people of Montenegro gave their trust to me to be president of Montenegro,” he said, calling on Vujanovic to “demonstrate seriousness and responsibility while giving statements. Vujanovic's declaration of victory is like coup d'etat".

Just before midnight however, Vujanovic reiterated his claim that he had won, but asked his supporters to be patient until the State Electoral Commission verifies his victory.

"This is the victory which we announced after we were certain. We call on the people of Montenegro to wait and see that the State Electoral Commission confirms what we said."

Vujanovic addressed his supporters together with Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic who said it had been a "heroic" win for Vujanovic. "This is truly a great victory, given the circumstances," Djukanovic said.

The State Electoral Commission has not yet given victory to either candidate in the two-man presidential race. But it has said there were no major irregularities at the polls and that turnout was 48.76 per cent at 5pm local time. According to party estimates, about 64 per cent of the electorate voted.

With both candidates supporting EU membership for Montenegro, the campaign mainly focused on mutual accusations between Vujanovic and Lekic.

Vujanovic fought on his government’s record while Lekic accused him of not doing enough to tackle some of the country’s most serious problems, organised crime and corruption.

Casting his ballot, Vujanovic said that he expected to win more votes than in 2008, when he was elected for a second presidential term.

“I am convinced that we will continue with the polices that people expect from us, strong economic development, that we will have new investments, create conditions for new jobs, higher salaries and pensions, and higher quality of life for all people,” he told reporters when he cast his ballot.

But Lekic said that he believes that Montenegrins want change.

“I expect that the majority will vote for me,” he said, adding that his victory would have a positive impact on Montenegro’s relations with neighbour Serbia.

According to the last opinion poll before the elections, Vujanovic is poised for victory again.

The poll, published in late March by the Centre For Democracy and Human Rights, suggested that 54.7 per cent of electors intend to vote for Vujanovic.

The DPS has been in power in Montenegro since the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s and Vujanovic, a former lawyer, has been a senior party official since that time, when he started his government career as justice minister.

Lekic held the post of foreign minister in the Montenegrin government from 1992 to 1995, but spent most of his career as a Yugoslav ambassador and as a professor at an Italian university.

Another potential candidate, Rade Bojovic, head of the Righteous Montenegro political club, failed to collect more than 7,000 signatures that he needed to register his candidacy.

The polls were monitored by observer missions from the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

A total of 511,405 people were registered to vote.

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