Veteran leader Milo Djukanovic is set to win Montenegro’s presidential election with 53.8% of the vote, projections suggest.
The forecast by the Centre for Monitoring and Research also shows that Mladen Bojanic, a businessman backed by an alliance of parties, including some wanting closer ties with Russia, was set to come second with 34.1%.
Mr Djukanovic has dominated politics in the former Yugoslav republic for almost 25 years and stepped down as prime minister in 2016.
In March, he announced his bid to return to front line politics. The 56-year-old economist wants to take the predominantly Orthodox country – which has pro-Russia sympathies – into the European Union following its admission to NATO in 2017.
Last year, Sky News revealed evidence that allegedly linked Russia to an attempted coup in Montenegro.
Passport images belonging to one of the two main suspects linked him to the Russia military and suggested he used an alias to plot the coup.
An old passport was issued in the name of Eduard Shishmakov that described him as the assistant military attache at the Russian Embassy in Poland.
A more recent passport issued in August 2016, just two months before the attempted coup, had a photo of the same man, with the same birth date, but a different surname – Shirokov.
Western intelligence said it was proof Shirokov was a GRU officer and was connected to Moscow. They described the coup attempt as “further evidence of aggressive Russian involvement in the heart of Europe”.
Theresa May has on several occasions cited Montenegro as an example of where Russia has repeatedly meddled in a country’s politics.
If Mr Djukanovic wins the presidency – currently a ceremonial post – it is expected to become the real seat of power in the country of 620,000 people.
Organised crime has cast a shadow over the campaign after 20 people were killed by assassinations in the street or car bombs over the last two years.