– departing CARICOM observer team
Suriname’s general elections have been conducted with no evidence of fraud, a report from an observer mission from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) says. Elections were held on May 25th, in the neighbouring country with preliminary indications that the incumbent president, Desi Bouterse, is facing a massive loss of about 10 seats.
His return to power looks extremely bleak with his former justice minister, Chandrikapersad Santokhi, with a major lead. Bouterse, chairman of the Surinamese political alliance ‘Megacombinatie’ is the leader of the National Democratic Party (NDP). Initial figures placed his party as plunging from 26 to 16 seats.
Yesterday, the CARICOM Electoral Observer Mission (CEOM) announced that it has encountered no evidence of fraud. The team is scheduled to depart Suriname today after having spent a full two weeks observing not only the elections day activities but also the pre and post-elections day phases.
Head of the CARICOM Election Observation Mission (CEOM) to Suriname, Dora James, on the eve of the team’s departure, said the mission is pleased to be able to report that its observations and experiences over the past two weeks confirmed that – up to this point in time – Suriname has successfully staged a “free, fair, transparent, and credible election”.
“The CEOM urges all of the entities that are now currently engaged in completing the few outstanding tabulations of votes to commit themselves to concluding this process efficiently and speedily,” James said.
According to the mission in a statement, it has made it a point of duty to meet with and to listen carefully to virtually all of the entities that were involved in the electoral process and, in particular to the many Opposition political parties, the Anti-Fraud Platform, the group of local election observers drawn from the private sector, and the Inter-Religious Council of Suriname.
“The members of the CEOM,” the statement said, “took very careful note of the concerns and reservations that were expressed – inclusive of concerns pertaining to possible electoral fraud – and resolved to carefully scrutinize the electoral process for any evidence that would substantiate such concerns and reservations.”
CEOM said that after an extensive period of scrutiny, its members are pleased to be able to report that, in spite of some administrative and logistical glitches and some COVID-19 related delays, it has been concluded that “we saw and experienced no evidence of fraud in the elections”.
The CEOM said it has also determined that Suriname’s electoral system is fundamentally sound, and that there are many checks and balances built into the system.
“The CEOM was also impressed with the transparency that characterises the electoral system, and the fact that at every stage of the process, representatives of the political parties are permitted to be present to scrutinize the proceedings.”
Guyana has been paying close attention to Suriname as it has held its own elections three months ago. However, Guyana’s results have not been officially declared with a recount underway with a final deadline for declaration being June 16. The tabulations in Suriname, like Guyana, is being held up by one of the biggest districts. In the case of Suriname, it is the tabulations of the capital city, Parimaribo, that is delaying the process. The process has also been delayed with a sudden rise in COVID-19 cases, 11 over the weekend.
“The CEOM congratulates the people of Suriname for the manner in which they conducted themselves in expressing their democratic rights, especially in a very challenging COVID-19 environment,” the mission said.
Bouterse was elected as President of Suriname with 36 of 50 parliament votes. From 1980 to 1987, he was Suriname’s de facto leader after conducting a military coup and establishing a period of military rule. On 16 July 1999, he was sentenced in absentia in the Netherlands to 11 years’ imprisonment after being convicted of trafficking 474 kg (1,045 lb) of cocaine. Last year, a Surinamese court convicted him on charges related to the December 1982 murders of 15 political opponents, sentencing him to twenty years. He has however never been arrested and is appealing the conviction.
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