Monday, 12 June, 2000Mixed outcome in Montenegro poll
Both sides in Sunday's key elections in the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro have claimed victory for their policies.
The local elections in the country's two main cities were seen as a test of whether Montenegro is heading towards independence or whether it will stay part of Federal Yugoslavia.
The ruling coalition, "For a Better Life", led by President Milo Djukanovic won 28 of the 54 seats in the capital, Podgorica.
Mr Djukanovic has edged Montenegro away from Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslavia over the past two years.
The Milosevic-backed "Yugoslavia" coalition has 22 seats and the Liberal Alliance four.
In Podgorica, the streets were full of cars hooting their horns to celebrate Montenegrin autonomy, while in the coastal town of Herceg Novi, where there's strong support for President Milosevic, residents celebrated what they saw as a guarantee of the preservation of the Serbia-dominated federation.
Large number of pensioners and war veterans boosted the vote for the Yugoslavia bloc, giving it 19 places in Herceg Novi's 35-seat assembly, with "For A Better Life" winning 14 and the Liberals two.
The opposition victory on the coast helped to dispel fears of violence in what is potentially an explosive republic, where the well-equipped police force is controlled by President Djukanovic and Yugoslav army units by President Milosevic.
Some members of the opposition had predicted trouble if they lost, saying that a defeat would have resulted from fraud.
There was a high turnout for the vote in the two cities, which account for about a third of the Montenegro electorate.
Montenegro, Serbia's junior partner in the Yugoslav federation, has moved towards greater political and economic independence under President Djukanovic.
In the past two years, Mr Djukanovic has loosened ties with the federal capital, Belgrade, and introduced the German mark as Montenegro's currency.
However, "For A Better Life" faced a strong challenge from parties loyal to President Milosevic.
Voting was reported to have taken place without any problems.
The pro-Milosevic opposition is led by Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic's Socialist People's Party.
Mr Bulatovic was cheered by elderly supporters as he and his wife cast their votes in central Podgorica on Sunday.
He told reporters he expected change.
His bloc accused the government of ballot-rigging and indicated that it would not accept defeat lying down.
As a result, voters were stamped with invisible ink to try to prevent any from casting their ballots more than once.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) sent a sizeable team of observers in an attempt to prevent voting irregularities.
Two years ago, Milosevic supporters rioted in Podgorica after losing elections.