Djukanovic claims to have won presidential election in Montenegro

Montenegro elections likely to mark closer relations with both Russia and the West

Montenegro to elect new president on Sunday

Preliminary projections show six-time prime minister and onetime president Milo Djukanovic as the victor of Montenegro's presidential election.

The 56-year-old economist led Montenegro to independence from Serbia in 2016 and into North Atlantic Treaty Organisation last year - now he wants to take the predominantly Orthodox country, a part of which has strong pro-Russia sympathies, into the European Union.

Veteran politician Milo Djukanovic steered to victory with 53.8 percent of the votes in according to a projection by the Centre for Monitoring and Research (CeMI).

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According to head of the Center for Democratic Transition Milica Kovacevic, Djukanovic has garnered 54.2% of the vote, while Mladen Bojanic is second with 33.3%, the only female candidate Draginja Vuksanovic is third (8.1%) and leader of the Real Montenegro party Marko Milacic is fourth (2.7%).

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The presidential position is largely ceremonial, but Đukanović has been at the fore of Podgorica's shift towards the European Union in his previous stints as prime minister and president of the country.

His strongest rival is Mladen Bojanic, who has the support of most opposition parties, including pro-Russian factions, and is expected to secure around a third of the vote.

The vote, the first since Montenegro joined North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in December, was seen as a test for Djukanovic, who favors European integration over closer ties to traditional ally Moscow.

The ballot is the first election in Montenegro since Djukanovic's party ignored calls from Russian Federation and joined North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in December past year. President Filip Vujanovic is maybe not running due to word limits.

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Djukanovic is the best-known candidate in the race, with his campaign slogan declaring him a "leader, statesman and president of all citizens".

Djukanovic has pared back his anti-Russian rhetoric saying he wanted "normal relations with Russia if it is prepared to do the same", but he has also said he wants the country to "remain on its road of development", which would be better achieved through ties with Brussels.

In the run-up to the vote, local newspapers have alleged electoral fraud, saying many dead people figured on voters' lists.

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

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