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Swiss observe key Montenegro vote

President Djukanovic addresses an election rally

(Keystone Archive)

Swiss observers are among the international monitors in Montenegro to make sure that Sunday's parliamentary election passes off smoothly.

Two Swiss observers who have been monitoring the run-up to the vote for the past three weeks say the two sides have so far been playing by the rules.

Opinion polls predict a close race between pro-independence President Milo Djukanovic and his rival Vesna Perovic, who wants to maintain strong links with Serbia, the bigger partner in the Yugoslav Federation.

Neither side is expected to win a large majority since Montenegro's 600,000 people are thought to be more or less evenly split on the issue of independence or remaining part of Yugoslavia.

Free and fair

The team of four Swiss observers, aware of the significance of the vote, will watch to see that the electorate has free access to polling stations, that there is no intimidation by the police and no propaganda.

"We are there to ensure that the will of the population can be expressed in a democratic and free way," Swiss monitor Roland Wiederkehr told swissinfo.

He says some voting irregularities are almost inevitable.

"It is to be expected that some tricks will be pulled in order to try to influence the result, but probably minor ones in some polling stations. I don't think this will be the case in the overall election."

The Swiss monitors were drawn from an expert pool which is being overseen by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Independence

The observers will also be keeping an eye on any signs of interference by Belgrade, but Wiederkehr is confident that Vojislav Kostunica's government will not interfere in the poll.

President Djukanovic, head of the Democratic Party of Socialists, strongly supports independence from Belgrade but has so far failed to persuade a sizable majority to support breaking away from Serbia.

He also lacks the backing of the international community, which is keen to see the remnants of Yugoslav hold together for fear of encouraging secessionists elsewhere in the Balkans.

Djukanovic distanced Montenegro from Serbia during the rule of former Yugoslav leader, Slobodan Milosevic's rule, and has continued to campaign hard for independence.

He has also refused to hold substantive talks with the authorities in Belgrade, who have offered to reform the federation to give both republics more autonomy.

swissinfo, Samantha Tonkin

Key facts

The Swiss observers are part of an international pool of experts.
The monitors will be looking out for voter intimidation, irregularities and pressure from Belgrade.
Opinion polls predict a close race between pro-independence President Djukanovic and his pro-Serbia rival Vesna Perovic.

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