PODGORICA, Montenegro – Montenegro’s former economy minister Jakov Milatovic declared victory in a presidential election run-off on Sunday, over longstanding incumbent Milo Djukanovic, ending more than three decades of his rule in the small Balkan republic.
Western-educated Mr Milatovic, 37, the deputy head of the Europe Now movement, campaigned on pledges to curb graft, improve living standards and bolster ties with the European Union and fellow former Yugoslav republic Serbia.
“Tonight is the night we have been waiting for over 30 years. I wish you a happy victory,” Mr Milatovic told cheering supporters of his right-centrist Europe Now Movement in its party headquarters in Podgorica.
“Within the next five years, we will lead Montenegro into the European Union,” he said.
In the capital Podgorica, some of his jubilant supporters drove through the centre, honking their car horns, while others set off fireworks or fired guns into the air.
Mr Djukanovic, 61, a former communist, has dominated Montenegro as president or prime minister for 33 years, since the start of the collapse of the now-defunct six-republic Yugoslav federation.
He conceded defeat to Mr Milatovic.
“Montenegro has made its choice. I respect that choice and I congratulate Jakov Milatovic,” Mr Djukanovic, who will remain at his post until the handover on May 21, told his backers in the headquarters of his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) in Podgorica.
Mr Milatovic won 60.1 per cent to Mr Djukanovic’s 39.9 per cent, the Podgorica-based Centre for Monitoring and Research (Cemi) pollster said on the basis of results tabulated from a statistical sample of votes cast.
Another pollster, the Podgorica-based Centre for Democratic Transition also put Mr Milatovic in the lead, with 56.9 per cent.
Voter turnout stood at about 70 per cent, Cemi said.