Polls have closed in Montenegro with predictions that President Filip Vujanovic will win a third term. Voter turnout was better than expected, but far lower than previous participation.
According to the country's DIK election commission, nearly half of Montenegro's 512,000 eligible voters had cast their ballots, three hours before polls were due to close at 8 p.m. local time on Sunday. This is slightly higher than was predicted before the vote, but lower than in previous polls.
Going into Sunday's vote, 55 percent of those polled said they would vote for Vujanovic. Fielded by the opposition as a unity candidate, former Foreign Minister Miodrag Lekic has just 45 percent.
The incumbent has campaigned on promises to make Montenegro a "democratic, developed country whose citizens live better, a good neighbor and reliable partner in the region and a state that will be integrated into the EU and NATO."
After Croatia, set to join the European Union in July, Montenegro is the next of the former Yugoslav republics in line for accession to the 27-nation bloc. However, the EU has warned the nation of 632,000 people that it will have to do far more to get rid of deep-rooted corruption and organized crime if it wants to become a member. Lekic has focused his own campaign on just that, promising to step up the fight against organized crime and corruption.
Neither Vujanovic nor Lekic has made any promises of economic recovery.
Montenegro's average monthly salary, about 480 euros ($615), barely meets monthly needs. Unemployment has reached 20 percent, while state debt stands at 51 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Though authorities expect a GDP growth of 2.5 percent in 2013, experts say that little has been done to cut public spending.
The vote for president, a largely ceremonial role in Montenegro, is the country's second since proclaiming independence from Serbia in 2006.
mkg, jr/acb (AFP, dpa)