Suriname General Elections
Racial harmony in hung verdict
By Baleshwar Agarwal
The General Elections in Suriname were held on May 25, 2005 in the presence of election observers and representatives of Caricom and Organisation of American States (OAS). All the two organisations commended the fairness of the polls. The Caricom chief of the Mission, Clem John said at a press conference in Paramaribo, Surname'scapital, that the Surinamese people had set an example for the rest of the Caribbean countries, where election is like a war between opposing parties. He added that the friendliness he saw during the elections between the agents and supporters of various parties was admirable.
Despite total transparency and cordial atmosphere in the elections, the people of Suriname have not given a clear verdict. Thus no party or formation is in the position to form a stable government. The Election Commission of Suriname has announced the official results of the elections, and the political parties have commenced cautious talks to form a new coalition. Results indicate that the incumbent, the New Front coalition, has won 23 seats in the 51-member Parliament. This Front is three short of a simple majority for passing a law on its own and 11-seat short of absolute majority to elect the President and Vice President. The National Front comprises of National Party of Suriname (NPS), African Credo-dominated party which has won eight seats, VHP (supported by people of Indian origin and having eight seats), Javanese (Indonesian) Party PL with six seats and SPA having only one seat. Thus, NF has secured 23 seats and has also claimed the support of three Bush Negroes parties called aaA combination and having five seats. It is understood that another political group called A-1 combination having three seats (two Indians and one Creole) will also support the National Front under the leadership of present President, Ronald Venetiaan. Presently the Vice President H.E. Ratan Kumar Ajodhia and Speaker of the Parliament Ramdeen Sarjoo are from the Indian-supported party, VHP. However, now the Indonesian- dominated party PL is pressurising the leaders of NF to offer the post of Vice President to them. If we add the total strength of the above three combinations, it comes to 31?still four short of absolute majority to elect President and Vice President.
Another party, NDP is led by former military dictator Desi Bouterse, who staged military coups in 1980 and 1990 and suspended the popular government in Suriname and is currently appealing before a Dutch Court against his conviction and 16 years? jail term for international drug trafficking. He may also face enquiry into the 1982 murders of 15 prominent opponents of his military regime. It is also noteworthy that during that campaign in the elections, the New Front vowed that it would not cooperate with the National Democratic Party (NDP) led by military dictator Desi Bouterse to form a coalition. NDP has 15 seats.
Despite total transparency and cordial atmosphere in the elections, the people of Suriname have not given a clear verdict. Thus no party or formation is in the position to form a stable government.
Another party, DNP, led by former President, Wijden Bosch and having five seats, is also exploring the possibility of forming a coalition government.
Keeping in view the above scenario, the coalition talks in Suriname can last for weeks. Thereafter, as per constitutional provision, the determination of the final results of the elections and the inauguration of the new Parliament, districts and regional councils will take a couple of weeks. Subsequently the 51 newly elected members of Parliament will be asked to elect the President and Vice President by two-thirds majority and if the Parliament is unable to elect them, then the joint session of Parliament (51) members and districts and regional councils (United People'sAssembly having 800 members) will be convened to elect the President and Vice President with a simple majority.
Suriname, a country of 435,000 people, gained Independence from its Dutch rulers in 1975 and the new Constitution of the Republic of Suriname came into force on October 30, 1987. The first General Elections after the new Constitution were held on November 25, 1987 in which Front Voor Democratieon Entwikkeling (the Front for Democracy and Development) secured an overwhelming majority. The Republic of Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana) is located on the north-east coast of South America. From 1873 till 1916, about 34,304 Indians were sent to Dutch Guiana to work as indentured labour or girmitiya mazadoor. About 11,000 were repatriated after expiration of the five-year term of their indentureship. Rest of the people of Indian origin are following the Indian religions and Hindi language in the country.