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Montenegro elections: Thousands take to streets as opposition claims victory

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In this photo taken Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, the Montenegro, left, and NATO flags wave in front of the Montenegrin Defense Ministry in Podgorica, Montenegro.
In this photo taken Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, the Montenegro, left, and NATO flags wave in front of the Montenegrin Defense Ministry in Podgorica, Montenegro.   -   Copyright  Risto Bozovic/Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Thousands took to the streets in Montenegro on Tuesday night as the country's pro-Serbian and pro-Russian opposition movement claimed victory in parliamentary elections.

Official results from the election on Sunday has given a wafer-thin majority to opposition parties, as the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), which has run Montenegro for 30 years, won the biggest share of the vote (35%) but fell one seat short of a majority.

That was enough for opposition leaders and supporters to call time on President Milo Djukanovich's party's government.

"I came here to celebrate this historic victory of the people of Montenegro over a criminal regime," one woman celebrating in the centre of Podgorica told reporters on Monday evening.

Another opposition supporter, pensioner Bojan Tosic, 55, expressed his relief that political change could happen peacefully:

"I am very happy with the result of the elections because we will change the power after thirty years through a vote, without violence, without revolution, without counter-revolution, without coloured revolution. It's important that we witness the changes."

Montenegro and NATO

Not everyone welcomes the results. Montenegro joined the Western NATO alliance in 2017 and has moved steadily towards the West under Djukanovich since gaining independence from Serbia in 2006.

Serbo-Croat Mileta Lutovac, 67, is an English translator. He's worried that progress could be derailed:

"I am afraid because I think that what is happening directly jeopardises the path that Montenegro has taken, namely the path towards Western democracies and Western value systems."

Jamie Shea, a senior fellow at Friends of Europe in Brussels and a former Deputy Assistant of NATO, told Euronews it was too early to assume the next government will chart a different course regarding NATO and the West.

Shea said that due to the opposition's slim lead, the next government is unlikely to have the mandate to dramatically change Montenegro's relationship with the West.

Djukanovich himself does not face re-election until 2023.

To listen to the full interview with Jamie Shea, click in the media player above.