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Montenegro Voters Urged to Take Part in Sunday Election


The international community is urging people in the tiny Yugoslav republic of Montenegro to vote Sunday, amid fears that the presidential election will be invalidated by low voter turnout and an opposition boycott. In Yugoslavia's main republic, Serbia, presidential elections failed twice because voter turnout was less than the required 50 percent.

Fearing an election disaster Sunday, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe want a positive result from Montenegro's nearly 460,000 eligible voters in the presidential ballot. In statements, they urged Montenegrins to use their votes to "put an end to uncertainty and accelerate the prospect for reform."

However, there are few indications their call will be answered. Latest surveys indicate turnout will be slightly lower than the required 50 percent, amid a political dispute over the future of the tiny mountainous republic of 650,000 people.

The main candidate for president, 48-year-old former Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic, belongs to a camp that wants independence for Montenegro.

Opponents call for continued ties between Serbia and Montenegro, after a decade of Balkan wars led to the disintegration of the old Yugoslavia. Mr. Vujanovic is also an ally of Milo Djukanovic, a powerful pro-independence leader who last month resigned as the republic's president to seek the position of prime minister, which wields more power.

This apparently angered the main opposition, which called for an election boycott, a move analysts say was fueled by fears that it cannot win Sunday's presidential race.

Election observers say the 10 other candidates from minor parties stand little chance of making any major impact.

One of the reasons is that the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists also counts on support from minorities, including ethnic Albanians, Muslims and others who account for nearly a fifth of Montenegro's population. They largely support Mr. Djukanovic's separatist policy.

Besides criticizing his pro-independence policies, the main opposition parties have accused Mr. Djukanovic of corruption and causing poverty.

The troubles in Montenegro resemble the political situation in neighboring Serbia, where a presidential race this month failed for the second time because of low turnout, which was attributed to voter apathy over slow reforms and infighting among politicians.

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