Early results of Sunday’s elections in Montenegro showed the ruling party led by veteran Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic won the parliamentary polls, amid rumours of an alleged ’terror’ plot and irregularities.
Montenegro’s longstanding Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, the leader of the Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, has won 36 of the parliament’s 81 seats in Sunday’s election, according to the first exit polls announced by Montenegrin watchdogs, the Center for Democratic Transition, CDT, and the Centre for Monitoring and Research, CEMI.
If the minority parties, which ran independently in this election, choose to join him, Djukanovic will now be able to form a new government.
DPS official Predrag Sekulic told reporters following the election that his party had again scored a victory, the seventh in a row, and could have 43 MPs in parliament if its "traditional partners" side with them.
"I believe that the next four years will be marked by our successful politics and continued integrations," Sekulic said.
The exit poll results show that the former junior ruling partner, the Social Democratic Party – also called the Social Democrats - won two seats, the small ethnic Bosniak party secured three, and the Albanian and Croatian minority parties ended up with one each, which if they side with Djukanovic, will give him 43 seats in parliament.
The initial election results are a major disappointment for opposition forces, which were seen for the first time since Montenegro gained indepdence in 2006 to be a serious threat to Djukanovic’s 27-year reign.
The initial results show that the pro-Russian opposition alliance, the Democratic Front, won 18 mandates, the group of three centre-left parties in the Key ’democratic coalition’ won 10 seats, while the small Democrats party and Social Democratic Party will have eight and four seats respectively in the parliament.
Opposition official Nedjeljko Rudovic, coming from Key, told reporters following the polls that the three parties within its coalition are not satisfied with the election’s outcome and how it was conducted.
"The opposition won more votes than Djukanovic. Estimates show that the four opposition groups won 40 seats and Djukanovic 36," Rudovic said. "We were exposed to strong pressure, attacks ... these elections could never be described as free and fair."
According to the CDT, voter turnout for the elections was 73.2 per cent when polls closed at 8pm, with around 528,000 people eligible to cast ballots.
The election day was overshadowed by the arrest of former Serbia Gendarmerie commander Bratislav Dikic, who was among 20 paramilitaries detained by Montenegrin police on Saturday with an alleged plan to "to disrupt Sunday's election."
The group was allegedly caught trying to enter Montenegro from Serbia with a large quantity of arms and ammunition and were arrested on charges of terrorism, the Montenegrin Prosecutor’s Office confirmed on Sunday.
In a statement, the Prosecutor's Office said there was "reasonable suspicion" that a criminal organisation had been formed in Serbia and Montenegro at the start of October and had a plan to attack citizens and police officers in front of the parliament building once the results of Sunday’s election were announced before taking over the assembly premises with the intention to declare that the party of their choice had been victorious in the polls.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the group’s aim was to influence the legislative and executive powers in the country.
"We also suspected that the plan of that criminal organisation was a deprivation of freedom of Montenegro's Prime Minister [Milo Djukanovic]," the Prosecutor's Office said.
Dikic, who is the alleged leader of the group, was relieved of his duties as Gendarmerie commander in 2013 after one of his men was arrested for murder.
Following the statement from the Prosecutor’s Office, Slaven Radunovic, an official from the Democratic Front, stated that Dikic was training the controversial Special Anti-Terrorist Unit, SAJ, which has long been accused of exceeding its powers and acting as the private army of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.
Meanwhile, Serbia’s Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, told press in the southern Serbian spa town of Vrnjacna Banja that he had no information on the alleged arrest of a paramilitary group in Montenegro.
In an additional spout of controversy, the CEMI and CDT also reported numerous irregularities during the voting at dozens of polling station across the country.
Voting was temporarily stopped at a number of polling stations because devices used to electronically identify voters were not working, and ballot papers were found bearing identical serial numbers.
Additionally, party activists were seen recording voters outside multiple polling stations.
The CDT also reported that in the western town of Niksic, voting was stopped at a polling station due to allegations of "vote buying".
After these allegations arose, a prominent Montenegrin anti-corruption watchdog, the Network for Affirmation of NGO Sector, MANS, said it has filed criminal complaints to the Special Prosecution for Organized Crime over the "violation of freedom of choice in voting".
The watchdog announced it has filed criminal charges against several persons on suspicion of buying ID cards, offereing money or benefits to people in exchange for votes, and against six persons on suspicion of exerting pressure on voters.
The voting in the 2016 parliamentary elections closed at 8pm on Sunday with 17 contenders vying for seats in the parliament.