Voting begins in Montenego presidential election

Other News Materials 6 April 2008 13:28 (UTC +04:00)

( AFP ) - Polling stations opened Sunday in Montenegro for presidential elections in which incumbent Filip Vujanovic is tipped to see off three challengers, national television reported.

Vujanovic, of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) which has been in power for almost two decades, is expected to win in the first round by securing more than 50 percent of the vote.

But leading opposition candidates Andrija Mandic, a pro-Serb, and anti-corruption campaigner Nebojsa Medojevic express confidence of securing a runoff in which they can defeat Vujanovic.

Montenegro, a tiny Balkan nation of 650,000 people wedged between the mountains and Adriatic Sea, split from its long-time partner Serbia in 2006 after a historic referendum.

The election is being held against a backdrop of tensions in the volatile region following Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia on February 17.

Opinion pollsters CEDEM predict Vujanovic will pick up 52.8 percent of the vote against 19 percent for Mandic, Medojevic's 18.3 percent and 10 percent for Srdjan Milic of the Socialist People's Party.

Montenegro's president, a largely ceremonial post, serves a five-year term. The former Yugoslav republic has some 490,000 eligible voters.

Voting, which is being monitored by more than 800 local and international officials, is due to end at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT). The first estimates are expected around an hour later.