Veteran Pol Expected To Prevail In Montenegro Vote

PREDRAG MILIC

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) â¿¿ A politician who has ruled Montenegro as president, prime minister and behind-the-scenes power broker could end up leading his country again, if the polls about this weekend's election are correct.

If Milo Djukanovic and his coalition prevail, he could serve as this tiny Balkan nation's prime minister again and continue its push for EU membership, despite an economic downturn.

This week's latest poll said Djukanovic's European Montenegro coalition is expected to win nearly half of the 81 seats in parliament in Sunday's vote, making it one of the few governments in Europe to survive a vote during the region's economic crisis.

The main opposition Democratic Front stands to gain some 20 percent of the vote, according to the survey by the Podgorica-based Center for Democracy and Human Rights. The margin of error was 3 percent.

Djukanovic and his coalition have ruled Montenegro since the late 1980s, first in alliance with Serbia's strongman Slobodan Milosevic, then as his toughest opposition.

Montenegro is a small, mountainous country of 625,000 people in southeastern Europe with one coast on the Adriatic Sea.

Djukanovic, 50, served as its prime minister â¿¿ the top jobâ¿¿ and as president while steering Montenegro to independence from Serbia in 2006 and toward opening European Union accession talks this year.

Although he formally resigned and handed over the premiership to a crony in 2010, Djukanovic â¿¿ the youngest prime minister in Europe at the age of 29 in 1991 â¿¿ has continued to rule the country from behind the scenes and to remain at the helm of his Democratic Party of Socialists. He is widely expected to become prime minister again, if his coalition wins Sunday.

During campaigning, Djukanovic has played a nationalist card, urging Montenegro's more than half a million voters to let him cement the country's statehood and take it into the EU and NATO.

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