Suriname elections body confirms Bouterse defeat

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Suriname’s President Desi Bouterse ruled as a dictator from 1980-87 and seized power briefly a second time in a bloodless coup in 1990. Bouterse was first elected president in 2010. — Reuters pic
Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Suriname’s President Desi Bouterse ruled as a dictator from 1980-87 and seized power briefly a second time in a bloodless coup in 1990. Bouterse was first elected president in 2010. — Reuters pic

PARAMARIBO (Suriname), June 20 — Suriname’s President Desi Bouterse lost last month’s general election after a decade in power, the South American country’s Independent Electoral Bureau confirmed yesterday after weeks of controversy delayed final results.

Former police commissioner and justice minister Chan Santokhi, leader of the main opposition Progressive Reform Party (VHP), is set to become the new president of the oil-and-gold exporting country at the head of a four-party coalition.

“The voters expressed their opinion on 25 May 2020 and therefore the Independent Electoral Bureau should respect the consequences of democracy,” the bureau’s chairwoman Jennifer van Dijk-Silos told a press conference.

The final result had been held up for weeks after both government and opposition cited irregularities, triggering recounts of votes in some districts.

VHP won 20 seats in the 51-member parliament and is expected to have the support of three other parties, giving it a combined 33 seats in the National Assembly, which elects the president.

Among its coalition partners is the General Liberation and Development Party (ABOP), led by Ronnie Brunswijk, a former rebel leader who fought a civil war against former military strongman Bouterse in the late 1980s.

The official result marks the end of the Bouterse’s long-time rule, after his National Democratic Party won only 16 seats.

Santokhi and Brunswijk met Bouterse this week to discuss a peaceful transfer of power.

Earlier Bouterse stated that he would only publicly congratulate the winner if the election authority confirmed the result.

Bouterse ruled as a dictator from 1980-87 and seized power briefly a second time in a bloodless coup in 1990. Bouterse was first elected president in 2010.

In November, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a military court for ordering the execution of political opponents during his first period in power, in 1982.

Bouterse appealed his conviction and the case was postponed until June due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The new president should be sworn in before August 13. — AFP

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