World Bulletin / News Desk
Montenegro's ruling party leader Milo Djukanovic claimed victory in a parliamentary election on Sunday, extending his DPS party's 23-year old rule in the ex-Yugoslav republic as it starts European Union accession talks.
The new government faces a stagnant economy and rising unemployment and will have to work hard to strengthen the rule of law and fight corruption, as required by Brussels.
"As of tomorrow, we will start work on the creation of a government that will continue to lead Montenegro on its path to European... integration and work on improving the living standards of every Montenegrin citizen," Djukanovic told hundreds of cheering supporters in his party's headquarters.
He stopped short of saying if would take the prime minister's post.
An unofficial vote count by CEMI, a non-government election monitoring group, gave 50-year-old Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists 45.6 percent with 94 percent of the votes counted.
That gives them 39 seats in the 81-seat parliament, which will force the DPS to turn to deputies for ethnic minorities to secure a majority. Official results will be released later in the week.
Democratic Front, the main opposition bloc, was a distant second with 23.8 percent. Its leader Miodrag Lekic tried to portray the result as disappointment for ruling party.
"The regime which has led Montenegro so far does not have enough seats to form the government alone," Lekic told a news conference. "This is the beginning of the end for the DPS."
The DPS, as well as its lanky, towering leader, remains popular despite economic troubles and persistent complaints about corruption for having championed independence from Serbia six years ago.
"Montenegro's ruling coalition is probably the only one that has managed to preserve the confidence of voters in such difficult times," Djukanovic said.
Hundreds of his supporters poured into the streets of Podgorica to celebrate, sounding car horns and waving the red national flags. Many chanted "Victory is ours" and "Milo, Milo".
The election was held some six months ahead of schedule, as the ruling coalition sought a fresh mandate during negotiations on Montenegro's eventual accession to the EU.
The DPS has made EU and NATO membership a strategic goal. After Croatia, due to join the EU next July, Montenegro is the only Balkan country that could become a member in this decade, as Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia are way behind.
DISMISSED CORRUPTION CHARGES
Djukanovic, as either premier or president, has been the dominant political figure in the nation of 680,000 since communist Yugoslavia collapsed 20 years ago. He resigned two years ago to give way to his hand-picked successor, Igor Luksic, but remained at the helm of the party.
Italian prosecutors once accused him of involvement in massive cigarette smuggling during Yugoslavia's international isolation in the 1990s, but he was cleared of all charges and has persistently denied all such accusations by the local media and the opposition.
Vasilije Kostic, a Podgorica-based economist, said the outgoing government's mandate "has been marked by fiscal consolidation, declining growth and a struggle for the preservation of the economy".
"The next government will have to cope with the debt growth, weak recovery of the economic activity, unemployment (currently at 20 percent) and corruption," he said.
Montenegro's economy flourished after Djukanovic led it away from Serbia thanks to booming tourism and foreign investment on the scenic Adriatic coast.
But this year, Montenegro has been weighed down by the debts of its state-owned aluminium plant as well as the euro zone crisis, and the economy is forecast to grow by only 0.5 percent.
Per capita output is 5,200 euros ($6,700), barely one-fifth of the EU average, but the economy was not a big feature in the campaign.
Abdiqadir Mohamed Sidii, governor of Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia, said he believed Godane and other senior al Shabaab members had been killed.
Although fighters have been prevented from taking central Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad's forces are worried they will reach it by digging tunnels from the sprawling suburbs and outlying towns under their control.
The soldiers were part of a contingent from Chad, said a U.N. official who asked not to be named.
The UNHCR said the total includes 814,000 Ukrainians now in Russia with various forms of status, as well as compatriots who have fled to Belarus, Moldova, the three Baltic states and European Union.
The doctrine was last updated in 2010, when Russia identified NATO enlargement as a national threat and reaffirmed its right to use nuclear weapons if its existence was endangered.
The Saudi security source said the fire started after a "stray" bullet hit the pipeline after shots were fired at security forces patrolling the oil-rich Eastern Province
The volatile situation in Tripoli has been exacerbated by separate clashes in the eastern port city of Benghazi
Former Israeli army chief-of-staff Gabi Ashkenazi faces charges of breach of trust and passing classified information to an unauthorized source.
Hadi had dismissed the government and planned to cut petrol and diesel prices, partly meeting demands of Houthi protesters who have poured into the capital.
Fifteen more Ukrainian servicemen were killed in fighting in the past 24 hours
The militants launched an attack on the town of Bama, 70 km (45 miles) from the Borno state capital of Maiduguri
The discussions with Kerry will focus on establishing "a timeframe for ending Israel's occupation to be agreed as soon as possible and not after the end of this year", said a Palestinian official
President Toomas Hendrik said "yes" when asked at a news conference if he wanted permanent NATO bases in Estonia.
By convening a joint session of parliament, where Sharif has a solid majority, the prime minister seeks to reaffirm that he is fully in control of the situation.
The relatives of soldiers taken by the militant group from Tikrit north of Baghdad had been scheduled to address parliament about the fate of their loved ones
Organisers bemoan that their human rights now being abused following military's 11th hour intervention.