April 6, 2008 / 6:53 AM / in 11 years

Montenegro president Filip Vujanovic wins re-election

PODGORICA (Reuters) - Montenegro’s President Filip Vujanovic won re-election on Sunday, reaffirming the dominance of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) on the country’s political scene.

The CEMI agency, one of Montenegro’s most respected election monitoring bodies, said Vujanovic received 52.3 percent of the vote, comfortably over the 50 percent required to clinch the largely ceremonial post in the first round.

The results were based on a partial ballot count. Final results from the state election commission are due on Monday, but the key challengers have already conceded defeat.

Vujanovic, a senior DPS official and close ally of popular Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, campaigned on a platform stressing his experience, pro-Western stance and long-time support for Montenegrin independence.

“This is a victory for all of us, for our Montenegro and for a better future,” Vujanovic, 53, told his supporters after results were announced. “I also want to express my gratitude to those who voted for my opponents. I will be the president of all of Montenegro’s citizens.”

The former Yugoslav republic of some 650,000 people voted to end its loose union with neighbor Serbia in 2006 and has since enjoyed strong growth, faster progress towards the European Union and a positive image as a booming tourism destination.

The West says its main challenges are weak institutions and endemic corruption, partly blamed on the DPS’ continuous 19-year rule over a closely knit society that prefers getting things done through personal ties and political patronage.

Analysts say change could be slower now that Djukanovic, who served as either president or prime minister from 1991 to 2006, is back in power.

The 46-year old quit politics one-and-a-half years ago, turning down the PM’s post in favor of a close ally, but returned when his protege resigned due to illness in January.

“Vujanovic and the DPS have a very loyal voting base,” said analyst Srdjan Bogosavljevic of the Belgrade-based Strategic Marketing polling agency.

Commenting on prominent anti-corruption campaigner Nebojsa Medojevic coming in a surprise third with a lacklustre 17 percent, Bogosavljevic said it was because “young people in Montenegro are abstaining, as in all post-communist states”.

The election also showed that ethnic-based platforms might slowly be becoming less relevant as the country prospers.

Andrija Mandic wooed the Serb minority by promising closer ties with Belgrade and vowing never to recognise Kosovo, the former Serbian province which seceded in February.

He received some 19 percent of the vote, while ethnic Serbs make up between 25 and 30 percent of Montenegro’s citizens.

Monitors said total turnout was 68.7 percent.

Writing by Ellie Tzortzi; Editing by Caroline Drees

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