Podgorica, 23 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Only 45.9 percent of the registered voters cast their ballots in yesterday's presidential election, which required a 50 percent turnout to be legally valid, Montenegrin Television reported. Filip Vujanovic (pictured), who is the candidate of the governing coalition, led the field with 83.9 percent of the vote. Vujanovic won more votes than his coalition did in the 20 October parliamentary vote. Placing second in the vote was Dragan Hajdukovic with 5.9 percent, followed by nine other candidates.
The leading opposition parties had called for a boycott. Turnout was also adversely influenced by voter apathy and a scandal that linked some leading government officials to trafficking in women. When he cast his ballot, Vujanovic urged his countrymen to vote lest Montenegro be without a head of state for the first time in its history.
Once the election commission confirms that the vote is invalid, it will reschedule a new round in which all 11 candidates are again eligible to run, dpa reported. If that ballot also fails, a completely new election will be scheduled. Official results are not expected until later this week, but independent election monitors say yesterday's presidential poll in Montenegro will be voided because turnout failed to reach the 50 percent legal minimum.
Montenegro has some 450,000 voters.
Vujanovic is an ally of Milo Djukanovic, who resigned the presidency last month to lead Montenegro's next government. Vujanovic, as chairman of Montenegro's parliament, will continue to serve as acting president until a repeat election is held next month.
Both Vujanovic and Djukanovic have called for independence in three years, when a pending loose alliance between Montenegro and Serbia will allow referendums on independence.