Presidential runoff in Montenegro begins
October 19, 1997
Web posted at: 2:44 p.m. EDT (1844 GMT)
PODGORICA, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Voters in the tiny Yugoslav
republic of Montenegro headed to polling booths Sunday for a
presidential runoff election that could play a role
in deciding Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's political
The two candidates, prime minister Milo Djukanovic and Momir Bulatovic, squared off two weeks ago, with Bulatovic garnering about 2,000 more votes than his opponent -- not
enough to gain an absolute majority and forcing Sunday's
Early turnout among Montenegro's 460,000 eligible voters was
heavy. Polls opened at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT/1 a.m. EDT) and were
due to close at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT/ 2 p.m. EDT). First
official results were expected Monday.
Djukanovic is widely supported by the young and by
intellectuals, while Bulatovic has the support of old
nationalists who still believe in the Yugoslav federation.
A staunch critic of Milosevic, Djukanovic, if he wins, may
try to split up Yugoslavia -- now consisting of Montenegro
and Serbia -- by breaking away from the federation.
A win for Bulatovic, who is endorsed by Milosevic, could give
limited help to the Yugoslav president, whose grip in the
region has been weakened by presidential and parliamentary
elections in Serbia.
Montenegro, which has only a fraction of Serbia's 9.4
million population, controls half of the upper house of
Yugoslav parliament, which has the power to choose or dismiss
As he voted Sunday, Bulatovic claimed there were "numerous"
irregularities and indicated that he may demand elections be
declared null and void if he loses. He said he had already
complained to the electoral commission.
There was no immediate comment from Djukanovic on Sunday's
Acrimony flared anew as campaigning resumed in the past two
weeks. In a TV duel, Bulatovic, seeking to play on old Serb
suspicions, accused Djukanovic of having the support of
"anti-Yugoslav forces" including ethnic Albanians and
Muslims. Djukanovic replied by saying "Bulatovic is supported
by fascists and communists."
Djukanovic alleged that Bulatovic embezzled $15 million
intended for the purchase of two Boeing passenger planes.
Bulatovic countered that Djukanovic was behind a
multi-million dollar cigarette-smuggling operation that goes
through Montenegro on the way to Western black markets.