They all invited the small ethnic Albanian and Bosniak parties – traditional Djukanovic allies that secured him a majority for decades – to join the new majority, saying no new government should be formed without them.
Ethnic parties hold five guaranteed seats in parliament according to an affirmative action election rule, which allows them to cross the election threshold with fewer votes.
The preliminary results of the election, which saw one of the biggest ever turnouts of around 77 per cent, saw the opposition take 41 of the 81 seats in parliament. With the five seats of the ethnic parties, an opposition-led government could have a solid majority.
Another point of understanding between the opposition bloc is that the new government should be composed of experts and non-party candidates.
The leader of the main opposition bloc, the pro-Serbian “For the Future of Montenegro” alliance, Zdravko Krivokapic, said Montenegro needed an expert government with a “limited duration”. He also said the veteran leader should quit the country immediately. “Djukanovic should pack his bags now, freedom has come,” he said.
He invited the Albanian and Bosniak parties to join the new government, saying the first goal was to offer a hand of reconciliation. “We call on the minority parties to approach…we cannot build a new Montenegro without them,” he said.
His message was echoed by another opposition leader, Aleksa Becic, head of the “Peace is Our Nation” list. “We do not want new divisions, we have had them enough, minority parties must be part of every government in Montenegro,” Becic said. “There is no alternative to clean hands and honest intentions,” he added.
The leader of the civic URA movement said Montenegro deserved to be led by an expert government, calling on people to take the “freedom they earned and deserved”.
“Never again will Montenegro be led by the mafia,” Dritan Abazovic told his supporters on Monday.
However, Djukanovic and his party are still far from conceding defeat. Addressing his supporters at DPS headquarters, Djukanovic on Monday reminded them that his bloc won 40 of the 81 seats and was still counting on its traditional allies among two small social democratic parties, which together won five seats, as well as on the five seats coming from the Albanian and Bosniak parties.
“The struggle for a majority in parliament is going on to get that plus-one seat, and we will wait for the final results of the State Electoral Commission,” Djukanovic said.
For the first time in his long rule, however, he conceded that the opposition had achieved a respectable result and promised to respect the will of the people. “The DPS is capable of recognising elections results that are different from what it expected,” he added.
Djukanovic, who in 2018 won his eighth term either as president or prime minister, will remain President of Montenegro until 2023, but some claim that he will likely resign earlier if the opposition forms a majority. Djukanovic did not comment on his presidential plans on Monday.
Most political analysts in the country insist that the opposition has clearly won. Milos Besic told Vijesti TV late on Sunday that the opposition was likely to form the new government, noting the high turnout as the likely game changer.
Stevo Muk, head of the Institute Alternativa watchdog, agreed. “The DPS has lost and that is the essential message to everyone,” he said. “But Djukanovic remains the president of the state, and it is up to the opposition to approach his work smartly and wisely,” he added.
Another political analyst, the head of the Centre for Monitoring, an NGO which monitored the voting process on Sunday, Zlatko Vujovic, was more cautious. He said the opposition had obviously polled well but noted a possibility that the final vote count could change the final outcome.
On Monday, he also told Vijesti that it would be not easy to form a new government composed out of three ideologically and politically different groups. “But citizens will clearly not be offering support to the current ruling structures,” he observed.
The elections were marked by a bitter dispute over a law on religious rights that is staunchly opposed by the influential Serbian Orthodox Church, the largest faith group in the country.
The issue has deepened divisions in the nation of only 620,000 people and the first comments after the election results suggested that the dispute with the Serbian Church may have cost Djukanovic his rule.
“Bishop Amfilohije beats Milo” many social media comments said early on Monday, referring to the Serbian Church’s leading bishop in the country, and his open support for the opposition.
Ahead of the election on Sunday, Bishop Amfilohije called on citizens to vote against the ruling party and cast a vote himself for the first time since Montenegro introduced a parliamentary system in early the nineties.
Sunday’s elections were marked by irregularities. Local watchdogs spotted more than 660; the Centre for Democratic Transition, CDT, recorded accusations of vote buying and political pressure on voters.
Local elections watchdogs and opposition parties accused the authorities of adding more than 50,000 “phantom voters” to the electoral roll just months before the vote.
An investigation by BIRN showed that there were 52,294 more registered voters than actual adults in Montenegro.