By Neil Marks in Paramaribo
After the close of polls Tuesday, all that was needed was confirmation that former military dictator Desi ‘Bouta’ Bouterse had secured the widest margin of votes in Suriname’s general elections. But as expected, that is not enough to give him power.
Bouterse enjoyed widespread support heading into the elections and this translated into votes for his Mega Alliance, Tuesday.
Preliminary results show Bouterse’s coalition secured 23 parliamentary seats, as compared to 14 for the coalition led by Ronald Venetiaan.
The other parties make up for the 16 other seats that complete the Parliament. This means that while Bouterse secured the most votes among parties, he did not win enough to secure a majority in the Parliament.
It was no secret that Bouterse would command a huge lead but would yet need to act smart and fast to secure a coalition before his main rival Venetiaan manages to convince the others to join with him instead.
Surinamese woke up, yesterday, to the news that Bouterse was already getting into talks with the other smaller parties to secure a Parliamentary lead.
With his 23 seats, Bouterse needs the support of other winning parties to secure a clear parliamentary lead.
This could come from the Javanese stronghold of Volks Alliance which secured six seats or the A Combination which secured seven seats. Also, the relatively new DOE has one seat and could join Bouterse.
These talks could drag out for a long time and Surinamese know it. For Bouterse supporters, the wait is nothing.
“We don’t care. He has won already,” said Shireen, a hospitality worker in the capital Paramaribo. She dressed for work in purple, the colour of Bouterse’s NDP party which joined forces with another three parties to contest the elections.
Of those registered to vote, an estimated 70 percent turned out, making it one of the largest voter turnouts in the country’s electoral history.
In the two largest voting districts, Bouterse won the capital Paramaribo, while he tied with Venetiaan’s coalition in Wanica.
As expected, Bouterse also took home Nickerie, where most Guyanese live. Bouterse also won in the district of Para.
The vote sent a clear signal to President Ronald Venetiaan that the Surinamese people were done with his way of doing things, including his handling of a land programme and the way he has managed the gold industry which buttressed the economy.
Heading into the polls, Bouterse had said he wanted to strengthen ties with South America and listed among his plans bridging the Corentyne river with Guyana and working to develop a highway to Brazil.
Here in Suriname, no one seems bothered by Bouterse’s past, marked by allegations of murder and a drug trafficking conviction in the Netherlands.
The former dictator, who first ruled Suriname after a coup in 1980, was popular with the young people heading into the elections. He promised to put computers in every school in the next five years, and this was good news for parents and the young people.Tuesday’s elections were peaceful with no reports of violence or unease.
“Democracy is alive and well in Suriname,” Michael Flood, the chief of the Caribbean Community observer mission said yesterday.
An Electoral Commissioner from Saint Lucia, Flood said, “Everything went down quite well” and “the people of Suriname should be proud of themselves.”
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