PODGORICA: The opposition in Montenegro said Monday it will not recognize the election victory of the government-backed presidential candidate if it is confirmed by election authorities, a move that could throw the small Balkan nation into political turmoil.
Opposition official Goran Danilovic insisted that the opposition candidate won Sunday's vote for the influential but ceremonial position. Danilovic told The Associated Press that "our victory is as clear as a day."
"None of us have the right to recognize election fraud," he said.
Both incumbent president Filip Vujanovic and opposition leader Miodrag Lekic declared victory after the election, presenting the results gathered by their own camps. Montenegro's state election commission has yet to announce its count of the vote, probably later on Monday.
The election dispute has fueled political tensions in the country which is striving to join the European Union. Montenegro last year opened the accession talks with the bloc and instability could undermine the necessary reform process.
The tight election results also present a blow to the long-serving governing coalition led by the left-leaning Democratic Party of Socialists, who have been in power for more than two decades. Lekic's strong election result amounted to the first serious challenge to the ruling party's grip on power.
Political analyst Drasko Djuranovic predicted that the state election commission will back Vujanovic's victory. "We are probably entering a period of tension and crisis during which the opposition will deny the legitimacy of the president and the ruling coalition," Djuranovic said
Vujanovic's camp said Sunday he had garnered 51.3 percent of the vote, while Lekic said he was the winner with 50.5 percent. Supporters of both candidates gathered to celebrate in the capital of Podgorica, but there were no incidents.
Danilovic alleged irregularities in the final hours of voting on Sunday. He warned the state election commission "not to try to officially confirm Vujanovic's victory and ignore a number of complaints that we have filed."
"We will demand full insight into the election material and full vote count," he insisted.
International monitors who observed the vote refused Monday to comment on the opposition claims. The monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that "from a technical standpoint the election was administered in an efficient manner and fundamental rights were mostly respected."
"At the same time, allegations of irregularities and an atmosphere of mistrust in the lead up to the vote had a negative effect," said Boris Frlec, the mission head.