Montenegro Elections Face Protest

PODGORICA, Yugoslavia -- A defeated supporter of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on Tuesday launched a campaign of daily protests to overturn elections and bolster his patron's weakened position.

About 5,000 supporters of the pro-Milosevic incumbent, Momir Bulatovic, marched through the capital of the republic of Montenegro, chanting, "Slobo, Slobo," in honor of Milosevic.

They shouted that the victor, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who opposes Milosevic, was a thief. And they chanted "Yugoslavia! Yugoslavia!" to emphasize that they oppose the winner's plans to make the small republic more independent of Yugoslavia, a federation of Serbia and Montenegro.

Those plans could weaken Milosevic, Yugoslavia's most powerful politician. Milosevic instigated wars in neighboring Croatia and Bosnia before signing onto the Dayton peace deal, and he still is considered a main player in the effort to bring peace to Bosnia.

Bulatovic said he refused to recognize returns that showed he lost the election by about 7,000 votes. "I don't recognize the elections as democratic, and I don't recognize the results," he said.

The crowd also shouted slogans against ethnic Albanian and Moslem minorities they suspect of providing the vote margin to put Djukanovic over the top.

Bulatovic said organized, peaceful protests would be held daily in the center of Podgorica, the Montenegrin capital, where tensions are high. Both sides are well armed.

Bulatovic said the election was invalid because about 8,000 people were added to the voter registers between the first-round election two weeks ago, in which he led Djukanovic by about 2,000 votes. He failed to get an absolute majority that time, forcing the runoff.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a preliminary statement that the first results appeared to reflect the will of voters. However, it said there had been "a lack of communication and in turn a lack of transparency."

Montenegro, which has about 600,000 people, together with Serbia forms what is left of Yugoslavia. A loss of power in Montenegro to pro-autonomy politician Djukanovic, would significantly weaken Milosevic.