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SURINAME
Bouterse in path to be reelected
Latinamerica Press
6/10/2015
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Partial results give victory to the governing National Democratic Party but it will have to negotiate with the parliamentary opposition for ratification of the President.

A total of 25 political parties participated in the elections held on May 25 in which 51 seats in Parliament were disputed. The new legislators will vote to determine who will be governing in the next five years.

The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), led by President Dési Bouterse, won 27 seats according to the early results released by the Surinamese electoral authorities. In second place is the V7 coalition, consisting of six opposition parties and led by the former chief of Police and former Minister of Justice, Chandrikapersad Santokhi, winning 17 seats.

André Misiekaba, a member of the NDP, declared that this electoral victory is due to a “correct campaign and achievements.” Santokhi also commented on the results, recognizing that the “voters have spoken and we have respect for that.”

However, Bouterse needs 34 votes to be confirmed for a new presidential term. The leader announced that on June 3 began negotiations with the opposition to formalize his reelection.

Observation missions from the Organization of American States (OAS), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), that monitored the process, agreed in declaring that the voting was free and clean.

In a statement, the OAS team reported that “the polling stations observed opened on time, were adequately staffed fully equipped with all the materials required for the election,” and highlighted “the extraordinary commitment and diligence of polling station members, oversight personnel and security agents in the exercise of their duties and commends political parties for the camaraderie shown throughout the day at polling stations.”

CARICOM, meanwhile, said the election process, which involved 325,000 voters, “was transparent, free and fair. Electors cast their vote without fear, intimidation or harassment and the results would have represented the will of the people.”

According to the Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean, the continuity of the NDP in the government led by Bouterse means that Surinam “continues promoting integration between South America and the Caribbean.”

Bouterse’s history
Bouterse, a 69 years old former sergeant, is a controversial leader who in 1980 led a coup, known as “the sergeants’ coup,” that overthrew President Johan Ferrier (1975-1980), the first President after Surinam’s independence from Holland. Ferrier was replaced by Henrick Rudolf Chin A Sen (1980-82) who governed until 1982 when he was overthrown by a military council controlled by Bouterse. He was succeeded by L.F. Ramdat Misier who governed between 1982 and 1988, but it was Bouterse who maintained control during this period considered a dictatorship.

In 1988 elections were held in which a broad opposition coalition led by Ramsewak Shankar (1988-90) took power, but was toppled in December of 1990 by Bouterse. In the elections of 1991, Ronald Venetiaan (1991-1996) won. He returned to govern between 2000 and 2010. In 1996, Jules Wijdenbosch (1996-2000), a member of the NDP, was elected.

More recently, in 2010 Bouterse was elected democratically. The President has a law suit pending in his country for the assassination of 15 opposition politicians in 1982 and was condemned in abstentia in Holland in 1999 for drug trafficking but was not extradited and maintain immunity as head of state. His son, Dino Bouterse, was condemned to 16 years in prison in the United States in 2013 for various crimes including trafficking of drugs and arms.

The V7 coalition has accused Bouterse of corruption and influence peddling. Santokhi pointed out that Surinam’s debt increased to more than US$1 billion in recent years and promised that upon taking power he would nullify the amnesty law of 2012 that favors the accused of the 1982 murders, as well as restart legal proceedings against Bouterse for his crimes during the dictatorship.

In spite of these accusations, Bouterse maintains his popularity in his country. The economy of Surinam, which has a population of 550,000 inhabitants, is based on the extraction of petroleum, aluminum and minerals, which has allowed the NDP to invest in social welfare programs, free universal education and social infrastructure projects.
—Latinamerica Press.


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