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Montenegro Could Hold Early Elections

Elections are coming to Montenegro much sooner than expected. The Yugoslav republic's President, Milo Djukanovic, has called for parliamentary elections October 6. The early vote follows a political dispute over Mr. Djukanovic's decision against full independence for Montenegro.

President Djukanovic's call for early elections came after the parliament of this tiny, coastal republic voted on Thursday to dissolve itself, at the initiative of parties who oppose his policies.

The last parliamentary ballot was held in April 2001 and another had not been due until 2005.

However, Mr. Djukanovic apparently did not see a path to a solution to the crisis after he plunged Montenegrin politics into chaos in March by agreeing under heavy pressure from the European Union to postpone plans to break away from Serbia.

Instead, the leadership of Serbia and Montenegro agreed that Yugoslavia will cease to exist in the near future, to be replaced by a looser union. Under the compromise agreement the Union of Serbia and Montenegro, as it is officially known, will last for at least three years.

While some in the West have praised the accord as a step toward avoiding further conflict in the troubled Balkans, Mr. Djukanovic's pro-independence coalition partners promptly quit his government.

Analysts say the poll in the republic of about 650,000 people will be closely watched internationally and will be a test of public confidence in Mr. Djukanovic. The president has come under pressure over allegations of shady business practices and links to the underworld.

However, Western observers have pointed out that voters appeared to shrug off these concerns at municipal elections in May, which in turn may have encouraged the president to go for an early national poll.