PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Montenegrins on Sunday are expected to keep the longest-serving government in the Balkans in power for another term despite a battered economy and opposition claims of crime and corruption.
More than half a million voters are choosing between the ruling coalition of Milo Djukanovic and a fractured opposition that has been unable to undermine his influence since he became the youngest prime minister in Europe in 1991 at the age of 29.
Djukanovic's coalition enjoys strong support for orchestrating the tiny country's peaceful 2006 break-up from Serbia and for opening accession talks with the EU this year.
And the opposition appears to have failed to capitalize on the economic troubles that followed a boom in the country first years after independence. The country faces 12 percent unemployment and a monthly a monthly average salary of €480 ($622).
Pre-election surveys predicted Djukanovic's European Montenegro coalition will triumph with some 47 percent of the vote, or nearly half of the seats in the 81-member parliament. The lead opposition Democratic Front is expected to win around 18 percent.
Upon casting his ballot Djukanovic said he was awaiting election results with "optimism and calm." He refused to say whether he would become the prime minister again, after formally handing over the post to a crony in 2010.
Djukanovic has remained the chief of his center-left Democratic Party of Socialists and a power broker behind the scenes.