Montenegro Holds Run-Off Presidential Election

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PODGORICA, (Reuters) – Montenegrins will vote on Sunday in a runoff presidential election. The incumbent Milo Djukanovic is up against an economist educated in the West who has pledged to help lift the country out of a crisis that was marked by two no-confidence votes.

The polling stations open at 7 am (0500 GMT) until 8 pm (1800 GMT). About two hours after the polls close, first unofficial results will be released by pollsters based on a representative sample of voters.

Djukanovic has been the president or prime-minister of Montenegro for 33 years. This is since the fall of the federal Yugoslavia.

The Democratic Party of Socialists and the former communist have been accused of corruption and ties to organised crime. They also claim that they run the small Adriatic Republic, which is mainly dependent on tourism revenues along its scenic coastline, as their fiefdom.

Jakov Milatovic is his rival. He's a 37-year-old former Economy Minister and deputy leader of the Europe Now Movement who has pledged to reduce corruption, improve living conditions and strengthen ties both with the European Union as well as Serbia, an ex Yugoslav Republic.

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Djukanovic won 35.37% in the first round on 19 March, with Milatovic taking 28.92%. This meant that a runoff was necessary, as neither candidate had a majority of 50%. Analysts predicted a close race in the second round.

Sunday's vote comes after a year of political instability that saw two governments overthrown by no-confidence motions and a dispute between Djukanovic and lawmakers about his refusal to appoint a new premier.

Djukanovic disbanded the parliament on March 16, and announced snap elections for 11 June. The Montenegro presidency is largely a ceremonial position, but a win in the elections would boost the chances of the winning party.

The bitter divisions in Montenegro are a legacy from the past. Those who consider themselves Montenegrins have a different view than those who call themselves Serbs, and who oppose the country's independent status.

After a failed coup in 2016, which the Djukanovic administration blamed on Russian agents, and Serbian nationalists. Moscow has dismissed these claims as absurd.

Montenegro joined EU sanction against Russia after the invasion of Ukraine in 2013. The Kremlin placed Montenegro in its list of unfriendly countries.