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Montenegrin presidential election closes with high turnout
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09:05, April 07, 2008

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Montenegro's presidential election closed on Sunday with an estimated high turnout of over 70 percent.

Polling stations throughout Montenegro closed at 9 p.m. (1900 GMT) after 13-hour voting. The incumbent President Filip Vujanovicis expected to secure more than 50 percent of valid votes to win the reelection.

"I am absolutely convinced of victory in the first round," Vujanovic, an ally of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, told reporters in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica.

"The elections will show citizens have opted for the state policy of continuing the integration of Montenegro into the European Union," he said.

This is the first presidential election since the tiny Adriatic country declared independence from a union with Serbia in June 2006.

More than two-thirds of the 490,000 registered voters had cast their ballots by 8 p.m. (1800 GMT), an hour before the polling stations closed, according to estimates by the non-governmental organization Center for Democratic Transition.

The 53-year-old Vujanovic is supported by the all-powerful Prime Minister Djukanovic and the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS).

However, if he wins less than 50 percent of the ballot, Vujanovic would face the run-off on April 20.

His main rival is Nebojsa Medojevic, the leader of the strongest opposition Movement for Changes.

The other two candidates are Andrija Mandic, who represents pro-Serb parties, and Srdjan Milic of the center-left Socialist People's Party.

Montenegro's president serves a five-year term for a largely ceremonial role.

The election campaigning was dominated by Kosovo, NATO and EU membership, economic development, reducing unemployment and poverty, and the fight against corruption.

Unlike its fellow former Yugoslav republics Croatia and Slovenia, the Montenegrin government has yet to recognize Kosovo, a Serbian southern province which declared independence on Feb. 17.Although ethnic Albanian minority makes up some 7 percent of population, Montenegro is more wary of enraging ethnic Serbs who make up some 30 percent of its 650,000 population.

About 800 domestic and foreign observers monitored the election. First results were expected later on Sunday.


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