(AP) Montenegro's ruling coalition won a parliamentary election and is set to stay in power after having ruled the Balkan country unchallenged for more than two decades despite economic troubles and allegations of crime and corruption, according to partial, unofficial results released by independent monitors Sunday.
Sunday's vote the third since Montenegro gained independence from Serbia in 2006 were held as the country seeks membership in the European Union and battles an economic downturn.
The European Montenegro coalition, led by the tiny nation's powerful ruler, Milo Djukanovic, has won 45.8 percent of the vote, or 38 out of 81 seats in the future parliament, according to the results released by Center for Monitoring after 54.3 percent of the ballots were counted.
The opposition Democratic Front is second with 23. 7 percent, or 20 parliamentary seats, followed by pro-Serb Socialist People's Party with 10.9 percent of the vote, or nine seats, the group said. It added that no major changes are possible by the end of the counting process.
The ruling Democratic Party of Socialists spokesman Caslav Vesovic said that "we will be the winners."
"This triumph will be even more convincing than the previous one" in 2009, Vesovic predicted.
Analysts said that the ruling coalition which has kept a grip on power in Montenegro since the 1990's will not be able to govern alone, but will have to seek support from minority groups in parliament, who are expected to win about half a dozen parliamentary seats.
The head of the Center for Monitoring, Zlatko Vujovic, said that "chances for such a coalition are quite real, as they were coalition partners many times in the past."
Djukanovic's coalition has led Montenegro to independence from Serbia in 2006 and has opened accession talks with the European Union this year. Critics have accused his government of corruption and crime allegations Djukanovic has repeatedly denied.
Djukanovic was at one point under investigation by Italian prosecutors who have accused his government of a multi-million-dollar cigarette smuggling operation during the international embargo imposed on Serb-led Yugoslavia during the warmongering in the 1990s.
Montenegro's opposition has failed in every attempt to unseat Djukanovic since he became the youngest prime minister in Europe in 1991 at the age of 29. Djukanovic's opponents have also failed to capitalize on the economic downturn that has followed the boom in the first post-independence years.
Unemployment in Montenegro currently stands at over 12 percent and the average salary is around 480 ($620).
Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.