Montenegro’s pro-Western ruling party leader Milo Djukanovic has won an outright victory in the country’s presidential vote, avoiding a runoff, according to official results released Monday.
A near-complete vote count showed that Djukanovic won 54 percent of the ballots while his main opponent, Mladen Bojanic, had 33.3 percent, Montenegro‘s state election authorities said.
Legislator Draginja Vuksanovic, the first-ever female presidential candidate in the Balkan nation on the Adriatic Sea, came in third with 8.2 percent.
“I am convinced Montenegro will confirm its determination to continue on the path of European development,” Djukanovic said after casting his ballot on Sunday.
Sunday’s vote, the first since Montenegro joined the NATO Western military alliance in December, was seen as a test for Djukanovic, who favours European integration over closer ties to traditional ally Moscow.
The presidential role in Montenegro is largely ceremonial, but when Djukanovic wins and replaces his ally, Filip Vujanovic, it is expected that he will wield considerable power and will be able to influence policy through the ranks of his Democratic Party of Socialists.
Djukanovic led Montenegro to independence from much-larger Serbia in 2006 and was behind last year’s accession to NATO.
He said Sunday that his victory means Montenegro will stick to its plan to join the European Union next.
The opposition has accused Djukanovic of corruption and blamed the government led by his ruling Democratic Party of Socialists for a spike in crime-related violence.
In his victory speech late Sunday, Djukanovic promised to work to overcome divisions within Montenegro, where many still cherish close ties with Moscow.
Djukanovic was prime minister during a tense October 2016 parliamentary election when authorities said they thwarted a pro-Russian coup attempt designed to prevent the country from joining NATO.