The winner of the election seems to be Chan Santokhi’s Progressive Reform Party. It is currently at 20 of the 51 seats. The count does not continue until Wednesday morning. To the misunderstanding of the opponents of Bouterse, who fear fraud.
They fear that the NDP will do everything it can to secure at least one third of the seats in parliament. This means that they can block the direct election of a new president by parliament. The final number of seats that Bouterse will have in parliament will therefore be crucial for his political influence in the future.
Fear of fraud
The elections are surrounded by irregularities. In advance, a majority of Surinamese indicated that they were afraid that fraud would be committed. According to national observers, in some places the ballot papers were not consistently provided with a president’s signature, which could invalidate the votes. In addition, observers were not allowed to monitor the count at a number of polling stations. There were also long waiting times and queues that prevented some people from voting. In the end, it was even decided to leave the polling stations open for two hours longer.
The results of these elections may not only determine the power of Bouterse, but also his freedom. In November, the president was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the December murders in 1982. At Fort Zeelandia, fifteen prominent opponents of the military regime of Bouterse were tortured and murdered.
No more grace
Bouterse has appealed the conviction. But if that statement comes when he is no longer president, then he can no longer pardon himself. That means he may still end up in prison. Although many Surinamese wonder whether the verdict will actually be carried out.
The conviction did not play a major role in these elections anyway. Many Surinamese are more concerned about the dramatic economic situation in the country. The early years under the NDP were accompanied by economic prosperity due to a well-filled treasury and the high gold and oil prices in the world. But prices dropped. And while revenues declined, the government continued to spend money consistently. The result is large debts and high inflation. That is the main reason that many Surinamese now seem to choose a different course.