The people of Montenegro voted Sunday in polls expected to see pro-Western six-time former prime minister Milo Djukanovic elected as president of the tiny Balkan nation that is aspiring to join the EU.
"Victory for the European future of Montenegro", said the pro-Western economist who led Montenegro to independence from Serbia in 2016 and into North Atlantic Treaty Organisation a year ago.
The Balkan nation's ruling social democrat party declared its head Milo Djukanovic the victor after 90% of the votes were counted, winning 53% of the ballots.
"As president, I will do everything in my power.to give the police the authority that would allow them to protect citizens from those who put their lives in danger", Djukanovic said during the campaign.
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.
Mladen Bojanic, the second ranked candidate supported by larger part of opposition parties, won 32 percent, while Draginja Vuksanovic from the Social-Democratic Party of Montenegro won 8 percent. It's considered a evaluation for Djukanovic, that favors integration within ties to ally Moscow. Current President Filip Vujanovic did not run due to term limits.More news: Rampage Stomps To The Top Of The US Box Office
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Djukanovic's party won the last general election in 2016, but he left the office to his deputy Dusko Markovic.
Djukanovic is the best-known candidate in the race, with his campaign slogan declaring him a "leader, statesman and president of all citizens".
Surveys indicate Djukanovic can win over 1 / 2 of those votes and also prevent a runoff.
The opposition accuses Djukanovic of being linked to the mafia, which he denies. The average salary in Montenegro sits at around €500 ($615) and unemployment is more than 20 percent.
The issue of organised crime cast a shadow on the campaign, with some 20 people killed by assassination or auto bombs over the last two years.
But for the 620,000 people in Montenegro, their votes may have been swayed by what work prospects are offered by the candidates rather than ties to the West or Russian Federation.