An opponent of Slobodan Milosevic won the presidential elections in Montenegro, delivering a serious blow to the powerful Yugoslav president.
Milo Djukanovic, who seeks greater independence for the small republic, which together with Serbia forms what remains of Yugoslavia, edged Milosevic's proxy candidate, Momir Bulatovic, by about 7,000 votes, according to near-final official results released Monday.The official electoral commission said 98 percent of the vote was counted, and the official turnout in Sunday's runoff elections was about 70 percent.
"It's a victory for the dignity of Montenegro, for it's freedom," said Djukanovic, 35, as he celebrated in his headquarters in Podgorica, the Montenegrin capital. "There is a lot of work for us to do, but we'll succeed for the benefit of Montenegro and Yugoslavia."
Djukanovic's supporters celebrated the victory in the early hours Monday, chanting "This is not Serbia" and unleashing a barrage of fire from automatic rifles and other weapons.
Fireworks exploded over Montenegro's capital before dawn.
Djukanovic's win represents a serious setback to the autocratic Milosevic, now the Yugoslav president.
Montenegro's population is 600,000, a fraction of Serbia's 9.4 million. Still, Montenegro controls half of the upper house of the Yugoslav parliament, which has the power to choose or dismiss the Yugoslav president.
In recent months, Djukanovic had several disputes with Milosevic and Milosevic's pro-communist wife, Mirjana Markovic, over the Yugoslav president's hard-line policies and his apparent failure to introduce Western-style economic and political reforms.
Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic, Djukanovic's spokeswoman, said, "Our candidate scored a victory. The citizens of Montenegro chose him for their future, democracy and a better life."
During the vote, which passed with only minor incidents, Milosevic's side claimed irregularities with 8,000 new names added to the lists from the first round. Bulatovic, the current president, got the most votes in the first round by a slight margin. He failed to win a majority, triggering the runoff.