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CNN International.com: Montenegro PM in easy victory

Published date: 12.09.2006 16:24 | Author: Kliping inostranih medija

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PODGORICIA, Montenegro (Reuters) -- Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic easily won re-election on Sunday, repeating the success he scored in a May referendum that led the former Yugoslav republic to independence.

The vote cleared the decks for what he says will be a period of "comprehensive reforms to adapt our standards to those of the European Union (and) keep the interest of foreign investors".

"This is a triumph for Montenegro's European policy," he told cheering supporters. "These elections have shown that Montenegro is stable and firmly on the European track."

Freed of the political baggage that came with its long partnership with Serbia, the Adriatic coast republic wedged into the mountains between Croatia and Albania is enjoying a tourism and real estate boom, and anticipating a surge of economic development.

Projections showed Djukanovic's center-left coalition had secured about 50 percent of the vote and was close to clinching 41 seats in the 81-seat parliament, leaving three rival opposition groupings far behind with roughly 11 seats each.

All three concentrated on the economy in their campaigns, accusing Djukanovic of corruption and nepotism. But no one proposed reversing independence if elected.

"According to the results we have there isn't a shadow of doubt about the absolute victory of the coalition," said spokesman Predrag Sekulic of Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists.

Fireworks exploded over the sleepy capital, Podgorica, and a few shots were fired in the air. But celebrations were relaxed and perfunctory, compared with the organized euphoria that greeted the 'Yes' vote for statehood four months ago.

Djukanovic has been president or prime minister of the republic of some 650,000 people for the last 15 years, the last eight increasingly devoted to his drive for a divorce from Serbia and its burdensome war crimes record.

"Tomorrow we will turn our attention with renewed energy to new successes, to make Montenegro even more democratic, more economically developed, with more jobs and higher wages," Djukanovic promised.

Montenegro's independence, its rapid acceptance by the United Nations and the prospect of quicker EU accession made his re-election predictable, analysts said.

Djukanovic had urged voters to not change horses in mid-stream at a crucial time in which Montenegro must complete its transition from former Yugoslav republic to market economy.

Podgorica's gleaming new Republic Square, with fountains and palm trees, is still overlooked by crumbling socialist housing blocks. But new highways and bridges mark the landscape as infrastructure projects proliferate.

Election results showed the ethnic card still carries heavy influence in a country where 32 percent consider themselves Serbs rather than Montenegrins and where local Bosnians and Albanians tend to vote for one of their own.

But the main Serb party, which was against independence, lost ground to the upstart technocratic Movement for Change, which promised to put up robust opposition to Djukanovic's well-entrenched political machine for the next four years.