Montenegro: Djukanovic may struggle to form government as opposition claims victory
Montenegro's pro-Western Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) is likely to have won just 30 seats in the country's parliament, meaning that President Milo Djukanovic will need to secure the backing of smaller parties in order to put together a government.
The final count from the election in the Balkan country of 630,000 people has not yet been released, but an early poll suggested that the DPS had nearly 35% of votes, while an opposition alliance of pro-Serb nationalist parties had won 33%.
Djukanovic's ruling DPS has governed Montenegro since 1991, leading the country to independence from Serbia in 2006 and towards membership of the European Union. In 2017, Djukanovic took Montenegro into the transatlantic NATO alliance.
That latter move was controversial in Montenegro, where a large proportion of citizens look towards Serbia and Russia as traditional allies rather than the west.
But this year, the main election issue has been a row over the property rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which has pitted the pro-Western government against an alliance of pro-Serb and pro-Russian forces, led by the Democratic Front party.
Early results suggested that these parties have performed far better than expected, and on Monday the opposition was claiming victory.
In 2016, police uncovered a plot to stage a coup on election day, installing a pro-Russia and pro-Serb government in its place.
Indicating high interest in the election, more than half of eligible voters had cast their ballots by midday. Lines formed outside some polling stations on a very hot summer day.
Opinion polls ahead of the election predicted the DPS ahead of other groups, though not with enough margin to form a government on its own.
Many other smaller parties - including those run by ethnic minorities - are also in the race, which is being held amid a new outbreak of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said the state will deal with any attempts to affect this election.
“This is the day when Montenegro decides to move strongly forward toward economic and general development — a Montenegro that is a member of the European Union and a reliable member of NATO," he added.
Djukanovic said Sunday's vote will determine whether Montenegro will continue toward membership in the European Union or allow Serbia and Russia to install their stooges.