Montenegro′s longtime ruler faces ballot test | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 16.10.2016
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Montenegro's longtime ruler faces ballot test

The quarter-century rule of Montenegro's Milo Djukanovic - who has led the Balkan nation since before independence - comes under pressure at Sunday's polls. The leader is facing allegations of corruption.

Montenegro's ruling party faces its toughest test in 27 years in power, when many hope that election promises to bring the country into NATO and closer to the European Union will outweigh allegations of corruption.

Djukanovic, who faced down large protest rallies last year, has pitched the vote as a choice between ties with the West or with traditional Slavic ally Russia, whom he accuses of funding opposition parties.

"Are we going to be part of developed European society or a Russian colony?" Djukanovic asked supporters waving national red flags at his final rally in the capital Podgorica. But analysts say the premier - accused by rivals of cronyism, corruption and links to organized crime - faces a tough challenge to form a stable government after Sunday's contest.

The AFP news agency forecasts his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) leading with less than 40 percent of the vote, a result that would mean coalition partners were needed to form a government. "Even if the DPS could reach with their political allies some tiny majority, that would be unstable," Zlatko Vujovic, director of the Centre for Monitoring and Research, told AFP.

Milo Dukanovic Ministerpräsident Montenegro (Reuters/S. Vasiljevic)

Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) have been the dominant political force in the small Balkan republic for 25 years.

Montenegro's main opposition bloc, The Democratic Front, openly calls for closer ties with Russia and is against membership of either the EU or NATO, calling for a referendum on joining military alliance. Other opposition parties have more nuanced positions - some are pro-EU but also demand a referendum over NATO membership - yet they have spoken of joining forces despite their differences to oust Djukanovic.

The issue of NATO accession divides the country's 620,000 people, who remember the alliance's 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia which at the time included Montenegro. The former Yugoslav republic's economy has grown at an average of 3.2 percent a year for the past decade, thanks mainly to foreign -  especially Russian - investment in energy, mining and tourism in a country known for its spectacular mountains and sea coast.

Polls close at 8 p.m. (1800 UTC).

jar/kl (AFP, Reuters)