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Montenegro Election Results Expected to Boost EU Membership Chances - 2002-10-21

Sunday's parliamentary elections in Montenegro have given President Milo Djukanovic's coalition a majority in the 75-member parliament. Supporters of Mr. Djukanovic say he is the best man to bring stability to Montenegro and to fulfill its hopes of getting into the European Union.

Milo Djukanovic says Sunday's vote means his ruling coalition has the support to do what is necessary to bring economic and political stability to Montenegro. His Democratic Party of Socialists and its Social Democrat allies won 39 seats in the parliament.

Sunday's vote also means Mr. Djukanovic can proceed with his plans to further loosen Montenegro's ties with Serbia, though to do this he may have to get support from smaller ethnic Albanian parties.

The opposition bloc, led by the Socialist People's Party, had campaigned for closer ties with Serbia.

Critics of Mr. Djukanovic accuse him and his allies of political corruption and black marketeering, charges he denies.

His supporters, like postal worker Zdenka Erau, say he is Montenegro's man to move the country out of its Communist past to a new future in Europe.

"The European Union sees in President Djukanovic a person who can realize all they expect from Montenegro in this part of Europe," he said.

Peter Palmer is an analyst with the International Crisis Group, an independent research group. He says European Union membership for Montenegro is a foregone conclusion, whether as an independent state or in union with Serbia. The real challenge Montenegro faces, he says, is whether the needed democratic reforms can be made.

"A much more important question is what kind of place Montenegro is going to be," he said. "For me, this question of independence is arcane."

Mr. Palmer says Mr. Djukanovic's past government has introduced reforms in banking, taxation, criminal justice and education. He says the key is seeing these reforms implemented.

And Mr. Palmer says Sunday's victory in the parliamentary elections means that Mr. Djukanovic is almost certain to be elected president when Montenegro votes again in December.