Polls close in Montenegro presidential election

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Preliminary results indicate former Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic has won more than 50 per cent of the vote, thus avoiding a run-off.

If confirmed, the result is an approbation for his move previous year to defy Moscow and take Montenegro into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The Center for Monitoring and exploration claimed following counting over 60 percent of the volatility though his opponent Mladen Bojanic won 34 percent which Djukanovic won approximately 5-3 percent.

The candidates included Milo Djukanovic, chairman of Democratic Socialist Party (DPS); Draginja Vuksanovic, deputy chairman of Social Democratic Party (SDP); Hazbija Kalac, president of Justice and Peace Party (SPP); Marko Milacic, president of True Montenegro; Serbian Coalition's Dobrilo Dedeic; Positive Montenegrin Party's Mladen Bojanic; and independent Vasilije Milickovic.

"Just as we said, we have received 54% of the vote in the first round of the election and left the other six candidates behind", Djukanovic said at his election headquarters.

Having dominated politics in the former Yugoslav republic for almost 25 years, Djukanovic stepped down as prime minister in October 2016.

Mladen Bojanic was Djukanovic's main rival, having been put forward by the leading opposition party, the Democratic Front, which prefers closer ties to Russian Federation and accuses Djukanovic of both nepotism and corruption.

The vote, the first since Montenegro joined North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in December, was seen as a test for Djukanovic, who favors European integration over closer ties to traditional ally Moscow. Current President Filip Vujanovic did not run due to term limits.

The ballot is the first election in Montenegro since Djukanovic's party ignored calls from Russian Federation and joined North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in December past year. He hopes next to steer the country into the European Union.

Djukanovic was the most high-profile of the seven candidates, with posters plastered all over the capital Podgorica, where a third of Montenegro's population lives, proclaiming him as "leader, statesman and president of all citizens".

The opposition accuses Djukanovic of being linked to the mafia, which he denies.

But for the 620,000 people in Montenegro, their votes may have been swayed by what work prospects are offered by the candidates rather than ties to the West or Russian Federation.

The issue of organised crime has cast a shadow on the campaign, with some 20 people killed by assassination or auto bombs over the last two years.