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Suriname - 31 May 2020 General Election

. Suriname, with a history of coup d'tats by the military, had a near-seamless election in 2020. The President is elected by the National Assembly to serve a 5-year term. If no presidential or vice presidential candidate receives a two-thirds constitutional majority in the National Assembly after two votes, by a simple majority in the larger United People's Assembly (893 representatives from the national, local, and regional councils), for five-year terms (no term limits). In the National Assembly (Nationale Assemble) 51 members are elected through an open-list proportional representation system to serve 5-year terms. Members are elected to 10 multi-member constituencies. District magnitude is determined by the constitution and not population size.

President Desi Bouterse said 12 March 2020 he will seek re-election in the South American country despite being convicted of murder for the execution of political opponents. "Of course, with big bold letters. You will not be able to miss the name," Bouterse told a radio program when asked if he would appear on the list of candidates for the May 2020 elections. Bouterse's five-year term ends August 12. There is no constitutional impediment to an incumbent running for another term.

Bouterse has maintained a degree of popularity in the country partially due to the economic recovery of the country and his personal charisma. While the economy has enjoyed a gradual recovery from an earlier slump in key commodity prices, Bouterse has been the dominant political figure in the country since 1980. In late November 2019 he was convicted for the murder of 15 political opponents in 1982 and sentenced to 20 years in prison by Surinames court system.

He snubbed calls from lawmakers for his resignation after being convicted over the executions when he was the country's dictator in the 1980s. At a press conferencey, Bouterse dismissed the conviction as a "flip flop political game... It's a political process. They are trying to prove that I am guilty. When you have done it, I can imagine that it will affect you. I have other things on my mind." Vice President Ashwin Adhin told a ruling party meeting that the president's murder conviction will never have legal force. "We have enough resources to act within the rule of law" to challenge it, he said. He did not rule out seeking a pardon for the president once all legal appeals had been exhausted.

That wasnt the first time hes been caught up in controversy. Years earlier, Boutersewas convicted by the Netherlands for cocaine smuggling and more recently was accused of helping Venezuelan gold transit through Surinameto overseas markets. His son, Dino, sits in a U.S. federal prison after he was caught offering Hezbollah use Suriname as a base for its organization as well as for a sale of cocaine.

Over 70% of voters turned out on Election Day. The enthusiasm and civic spirit demonstrated by the Surinamese people must be highly commended. No single political party achieved a two-thirds majority in the elections. Among the six political parties winning seats in the National Assembly, efforts were underway to develop post-electoral alliances. Four of those parties had agreed to collaborate and to build a coalition.

The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) for the 2020 General Elections in Suriname observed the post-electoral process since the conclusion of the poll on May 25. Members of the Mission have been present at the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Main Polling Stations and the Central Polling Station and haveobserved the receipt and consolidation of the results. The Mission also noted the challenges occasioned by Covid-19, as the incidence of cases grew in the days following the elections from one case on Election Day to forty-four on June 2.

On 16 July 2020, Chan Santokhi was inaugurated as the new president of Suriname, putting an end to the decade-long rule of Desi Bouterse. With the election of a new president, Suriname could try to leave the tainted and violent legacy of Desi Bouterse behind it. But Chan Santokhi had a tough task ahead: his vice president is a convicted drug trafficker, corruption is rampant and the country is seeing bustling trade in cocaine and illegal gold.

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Page last modified: 12-08-2020 15:11:05 ZULU