Partial results in the Montenegrin parliamentary election show the pro-West party of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic has won the most votes,but failed to secure a majority.
With almost 100 percent of the ballots counted, Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists won 41 percent of the votes, but needs a coalition to remain in power, according to the independent CeMI election monitoring group.
Two opposition parties--the Democratic Front and the Key Coalition—also won 20 and 11 percent, respectively.
Both the opposition and the ruling party, however, said they have enough seats in the 81-seat parliament to form the future government.
In a midnight address to his supporters, Djukanovic said he will soon start negotiations with his potential coalition partners and “form the government."
Following the vote on Sunday, the Interior Ministry warned people to avoid taking to the streets after the results are released, urging supporters of whoever wins to celebrate indoors.
The warning came after authorities claimed they have foiled a plot by a group of Serbs, who were planning to seize the prime minister and parliament and proclaim victory for the pro-Russian opposition.
Montenegro’s police chief said they arrested 20 people for planning to kidnap Djukanovic and plotting armed attacks on officials.
The official results, which are expected to be released Monday, will determine whether the small Balkan country remains an ally to the West and continue bids to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) or will return to its traditional ally, Russia.
Djukanovic, 54, has formerly accused Russia of funding the opposition and trying to use the vote as an opportunity to disrupt the Balkan region’s rush toward joining NATO and the EU. He said the vote was a choice between becoming an EU and NATO member or a “Russian colony.”
“A big power has moved against the small Montenegro, but we have succeeded,” Djukanovic said, referring to Russia.
“Tonight we can safely say that Montenegro is heading toward the European integrations and we will soon ratify the accession agreement with NATO,” he added.
Opposition parties, however, denied the allegations and accused Djukanovic of corruption, economic mismanagement and cronyism, saying he was trying to scare people by suggesting that the country will fall into chaos if he loses.
“The only chaos will be within Djukanovic's cabinet,” opposition Democratic Front leader Andrija Mandic said on Sunday.
“I have no doubt that the opposition will show its strength and that the Democratic Front will become future framework of the Montenegro government,” he said. “Today is the last day of Djukanovic’s 27-year rule.”
Many Montenegrins, whose country was bombed by NATO during the 1999 Kosovo war, express concern over the prime minister’s bid to take the country into the military alliance.
Several anti-NATO protests have been held in Montenegro, urging the government to reject the Western military bloc’s accession invitation.
Russia also strongly opposes the expansion of NATO in the Balkan region, arguing that the move directly harms Moscow’s strategic interests in the Balkans.