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Montenegro Again Fails to Elect a President

The Balkan republic of Montenegro has once again failed to elect its president Sunday. Less than the required 50 percent of the voters turned up to cast their ballot.

Voters in Montenegro showed no greater interest in electing their president than they did on December 22, 2002, when they didn't turn out in sufficient numbers to make the ballot count.

Preliminary reports show less than 50 percent of them took part in Sunday's elections, making them legally invalid.

As in the previous try, former Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic, who wants independence for Montenegro, was seen winning an overwhelming majority of over 80 percent of the votes cast, while the rest of the votes were split among eight other candidates.

Analysts say that his success was in part because of an opposition boycott. They blame the low turnout on voter apathy. Opposition parties, led by the Socialist People's Party, have blamed the pro-independence government coalition for the election failure, saying it had ruined the economy of the small republic of 650,000 people.

Montenegro's Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and the leader of the main ruling coalition Democratic Party of Socialists said Sunday the republic would change the law to scrap the 50 percent threshold before new elections are held, most likely in the next few months.

Some observers expressed concern Montenegro's failure to elect its president might lead to the same political troubles now besetting next-door Serbia. Voters there also failed twice to elect their head of state because of low turn-out.

According to political analysts, the election failures in both republics will make it more difficult for Montenegro and Serbia to function as the loose federation they formed earlier this month. The new union, called "Serbia and Montenegro," will allow each republic to function independently and share a common defense and foreign policy. The new confederation will remain for at least three years.

Without clear winners, the parliament speakers are now acting presidents in both Serbia and Montenegro.