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Page last updated at 21:22 GMT, Sunday, 29 March 2009 22:22 UK

Montenegro party claims poll win

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Supporters joy at coalition win

Montenegro's ruling coalition has claimed victory in its parliamentary election, bolstering the government's efforts to join the EU and Nato.

An official from Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic's party claimed victory in a TV broadcast in front of supporters.

Early projections suggest the ruling bloc won more than 50% of the vote, its nearest rivals taking about 16%.

The country's leaders held the election early, saying a new mandate was needed to push through their reforms.

Hours after polls closed, the Democratic Party of Socialists' political director Predrag Sekulic told supporters the ruling coalition had won.

"This victory is even more important because it comes at a time of the speeding up of European integration and the maturing of democracy in Montenegro," he said.

The Podgorica-based CEMI election monitors said parties belonging to the ruling coalition, known as European Montenegro, had won more than 50% of the vote.

The opposition Socialist People's Party, the bloc's nearest rivals, won slightly more than 16%.

Robust growth

Earlier, Mr Djukanovic said it was important that the country showed it was capable of further economic and social development.

A man walks past campaign posters advertising "Rights for Serbs" in Montenegro's capital Podgorica, 28 March 2009
Sixteen parties and coalitions are running in Montenegro's election

"What matters today is that Montenegro continues its dynamic economic development, that it will preserve social stability during the crisis," he said.

The main opposition parties - all of which favour closer ties with Serbia - said the election was called before the full impact of the global financial crisis has become clear.

The country's economy, especially the tourism sector, has grown robustly since 2006 when Montenegro ended its union with Serbia.

But analysts say the economy could go into recession later this year.

Polls closed at 1900 GMT. Preliminary results will be released on Monday, with final official results expected two weeks later.

Mr Djukanovic has been in charge of Montenegro on and off since the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

His opponents say his time in office has been characterised by corruption.



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