Both sides claimed victory in a presidential election in Montenegro on Sunday, raising the prospect of a dispute over the largely ceremonial post in the tiny Adriatic country as it bids to join the European Union. With no independent exit poll or official word from the state electoral commission, both incumbent Filip Vujanovic and opposition challenger Miodrag Lekic took to the airwaves to announce they had won. Lekic compared his rival’s claim to a “coup d’etat”. The president is largely a figurehead for Montenegro’s 680,000 people, with real power vested in the prime minister. But a Lekic victory would set up an awkward cohabitation and deal a significant blow to the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) after more than two decades in power.
Based on his camp’s own count, the DPS’s Vujanovic said he had won 51.3 percent of votes compared to 48.7 for Lekic, a former diplomat. “This is the winning result,” Vujanovic said in a televised address.
The opposition Democratic Front said Lekic was ahead according to its own count, by 50.5 percent to 49.5. “I can announce that the people of Montenegro have entrusted me with the post of president,” Lekic said in a televised address. Reacting to Vujanovic’s own victory claim, he added: “We will not accept theft.”
The state electoral commission, which had been expected to pronounce during the night, said it would announce the official result within 48 hours of polls closing at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT).
A disputed result raises the prospect of street protests, and will unnerve the European Union as it tries to steer the mountainous country through a raft of reforms to ready it for membership. Accession talks began in mid-2012, and could last several years.