PODGORICA: Veteran pro-European Union politician Milo Djukanovic was set to win Montenegro's presidential election on Sunday with 53.5 percent of votes, according to a projection by the Centre for Monitoring and Research (CeMI) pollster.
Mladen Bojanic, a businessman backed by an alliance of parties, including some wanting closer ties with Russia, was set to come second with 34 percent, CeMI said, based on a partial count of the votes in a sample of polling stations.
The state election commission said turnout at 7.30 p.m (1730 GMT), half an hour before the polling stations closed, stood at 61.6 percent.
"This (result) is a serious indication of how final results might look, though results might deviate slightly," said Milos Besic, an lecturer of political sciences at the Belgrade University who monitors Montenegro's vote.
After casting his ballot, Djukanovic said he was convinced he would win in the first round.
"I am convinced Montenegro will confirm its determination to continue on the path of European development," Djukanovic said.
No significant election irregularities have been reported.
Although the presidential role is largely ceremonial, if Djukanovic wins and replaces his ally Filip Vujanovic, he is expected to wield considerable power and influence policy through the ranks of the DPS.
Having dominated politics in the tiny Adriatic country of only 620,000 and an ex-Yugoslav republic since 1991, either as prime minister or president, Djukanovic last stepped down as prime minister in 2016. He announced his comeback last month citing "responsibility for Montenegro's future".
During the campaign, opposition candidates accused Djukanovic of fostering cronyism, nepotism, corruption and ties with organised crime, which he denies.
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Ivana Sekularac, Adrian Croft and David Evans)