Montenegro faces post-election crisis over alleged Serb plot


Podgorica (Montenegro) (AFP)

Montenegro's High Court has ordered the month-long detention of a group of Serbians suspected of planning an anti-government attack during parliamentary elections at the weekend, whose result the opposition contested Wednesday.

Authorities said the Serbian group -- allegedly headed by retired police chief Bratislav Dikic -- plotted to seize the prime minister and parliament and proclaim victory for the opposition.

The detention order affects 14 of the 20 Serbians arrested on the eve of Sunday's vote, a court spokesman told AFP on Wednesday. The other six were released on Monday.

The former police chief denied the charges and launched a hunger strike in protest, his lawyer Milan Petrovic said.

"My client denied the charges and said he was visiting Montenegro to go to the Ostrog (Orthodox) monastery," Petrovic told reporters.

With all the ballots counted, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) won more than 40 percent of the votes -- more than double that of the main opposition Democratic Front.

But the opposition contested the result, saying the arrests late on Saturday had influenced the outcome.

- 'Explanations needed' -

"The opposition at this moment cannot accept the vote because an atmosphere of a coup d'etat was created during the (election) day," Miodrag Lekic, a leader of the Kljuc (Key) Coalition, told reporters.

"It is necessary that the police, prosecutor and all relevant institutions explain who is this group that prepared attacks on election day and for which party," Lekic said.

A pro-government private newspaper, Dnevne Novine, on Wednesday published a transcript of a telephone conversation allegedly between Dikic and another group leader, in which the two were said to be as plotting to break into parliament with opposition leaders.

Although DPS won the election, it only took 36 of the 81 seats in parliament, meaning it will have to ally with parties representing Croat, Muslim and Albanian minorities.

Opposition groups, who collectively won 39 seats and have not yet lodged any formal appeal, have pledged to ask minority parties to support a "temporary technical government whose task would be to prepare new parliamentary elections," a Kljuc official told AFP.

International observers said fundamental freedoms were largely respected, but that allegations of political tension, corruption, foreign funding and inconsistencies in the legal framework had tainted the electoral environment.