Montenegro's political opposition says it it will not recognize the results of parliamentary elections because of the influence of an alleged antiterrorist raid carried out by police.
The daily newspaper Vijesti reported online late on October 17 that the four opposition parties will not acknowledge the result because of what they called massive abuses -- including a police statement that 20 Serbian nationals were arrested for plotting terrorist attacks to destabilize the country during the October 16 vote.
National police director Slavko Stojanovic said on October 16 that the 20 Serbs were arrested late on October 15 after revelations that the group planned to "pick up automatic weapons" to attack state institutions, police, and possibly state officials.
He did not provide further details.
Montenegro's combined opposition is partly pro-Russian and has long opposed the country’s path toward NATO and EU membership set by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and his Democratic Party of Socialists.
Djukanovic’s party declared victory after preliminary results showed them winning 41 percent of the vote, enough for at least 35 of the 81 seats in parliament.
The four parties in opposition are thought to have won 39 or 40 seats.
Official results from the state election authority were expected within the coming days.
The preliminary results suggest Djukanovic, who has led Montenegro as president or prime minister for more than 25 years, must scramble to build a majority in a deeply divided parliament.
Djukanovic said early on October 17 that he would seek a coalition with parties of national minorities, Bosniaks, Croats, and Albanians and the Social Democracy party to secure enough seats to form a coalition.
"Immediately after the announcement of the official vote count, we will start negotiations ... we will form the government," Djukanovic told his supporters in the capital, Podgorica.
"Montenegro is continuing towards its European future. We will ratify NATO membership and complete EU accession talks by the end of the [fresh] mandate. We will bring new investments, improve living standards," Djukanovic said.
WATCH: Montenegrins Go To The Polls
Voters turned out in record numbers, driving turnout to 73 percent, according to the Center for Democratic Transitions.
Montenegro's 530,000 registered voters voted for 17 lists, including a total of 34 parties.
But the opposition accused Djukanovic of trying to scare voters by suggesting that chaos will prevail if his party loses the elections.
"The only chaos will be within Djukanovic's cabinet," said Andrija Mandic, leader of the pro-Russian Democratic Front, after he cast his ballot on October 16.
"I have no doubt that the opposition will show its strength and that the Democratic Front will become the future framework of the Montenegro government," Mandic added.
Montenegro is deeply divided between those who favor and oppose integration with the West. After seceding from Serbia in 2006, the country, which had been an ally of Russia, has taken a strong turn toward Euro-Atlantic integration.
The Democratic Front organized huge and at times violent anti-NATO protests late last year, calling for unrest if the government joins NATO without a referendum.
Strahinja Bulajic, a leading Democratic Front official, told AFP that if his party won the elections “we will abolish sanctions against Russia and develop the closest economic and political ties [with Moscow].”
Relations between Russia and Montenegro cooled in March 2014 when Montenegro joined the EU sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.
Its relationship with Moscow took another turn for the worse in May when Montenegro signed an accession agreement with NATO to become its 29th member in the coming months. The government and other member states have yet to ratify the agreement.
The opposition has demanded a referendum on the divisive issue. Opinion polls show that less than 40 percent of Montenegrins want to join the military alliance.
Analysts say the election campaign had focused less on the programs the parties had to offer and more on whether Djukanovic should stay or go.
The opposition accuses Djukanovic of corruption, nepotism, and economic mismanagement.
In 2003, Djukanovic was named a suspect in an Italian cigarette trafficking inquiry dating back to the 1990s. He denied the allegations and the Italian court dropped the case in 2009 because of his diplomatic immunity.
Djukanovic’s political ideology has undergone several transformations over the last two and a half decades in power. He first shed his communist, then nationalist, past to become a leading voice for EU and NATO integration.
Djukanovic had also accused the Kremlin of meddling in the election campaign by secretly financing the opposition parties in order to keep Montenegro from joining NATO.
With reporting by dpa, AP, AFP, Vijesti, Deutsche Welle, Balkan Insight, and Reuters