OCTOBER 14 2012 15:56h
Montenegrin voters started going to the polls on Sunday morning to elect a new parliament, and these early parliamentary elections are the ninth election for Montenegro's top law-making body since the introduction of multiparty system and the third one since this southeastern European country gained independence in 2006.
A total of seven coalitions, five parties and a group of citizens are running in the elections at which over 514,000 Montenegrins are eligible to vote for the 81-seat parliament.
This election is being held before the regular term next spring under Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic's decision in an effort to give the government full legitimacy to lead the country to its final objective of acceding to the EU.
Two strong blocs emerged during the pre-election campaign - the coalition "For a European Montenegro" and the Democratic Front (DF), with two other larger parties.
Pundits seem to think that the coalition "For a European Montenegro", consisting of the Democratic Social Party (DPS) of Milo Djukanovic, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) of Ranko Krivokapic, and the Liberal Party headed by Andrija Popovic, will be on the verge of taking absolute authority again.
Several minority parties are running in the elections independently, including the Croatian Civil Initiative (HG), the only political representative body of Croats in Montenegro. The party will more than likely manage to have one member in the parliament again.
Both the ruling coalition and opposition agree that it is in the country's interest to join the EU, however, there is some dissension over whether the country should join NATO. The opposition is urging a referendum on the NATO accession.
Negotiations with Montenegro on its path to the EU were opened in June and the country is now in a phase of screening, its legislation being analytically compared to that of the EU.
The elections will be monitored by 1,200 local and 100 foreign observers hired by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). (Hina)