PARAMARIBO, Suriname, Monday May 25, 2015 – Surinamese are electing a new government today, with President Desi Bouterse’s National Democratic Party (NDP) confident of victory in the face of a challenge from the main coalition of opposition parties led by former justice minister Chandrikapersad Santokhi.
Residents of the Dutch-speaking CARICOM nation began voting around 7 a.m. at the more than 600 polling stations that are open across the country.
With seven political parties and four coalitions of opposition parties vying for the 51 seats in the country’s National Assembly, the incumbent NDP will need at least 26 seats to win the election. The National Assembly will vote on who will be president, with a two-thirds majority required for the victor.
The 69-year-old Bouterse – who was in 1991 convicted in absentia of cocaine trafficking in the Netherlands but was not jailed because that country does not have an extradition treaty with Suriname – is confident of victory.
A poll published in February indicated that his NDP was ahead in five of the six electoral districts surveyed.
Just as confident of victory is Santokhi’s coalition, V7.
Several observer missions are monitoring the elections in which 350,000 people are eligible to vote.
Among them is a CARICOM Electoral Observer Mission (CEOM) headed by the deputy chief elections officer in Barbados, Ian Browne The other members include experts in electoral management and administration from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, The Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.
“It is the intention of the mission to observe the activities of the poll in as many constituencies as possible and as many polling stations as time permits. In this regard, the CEOM were present at a number of polling stations at the opening of the polls to observe the opening procedures, and will also be present at the close of the polls to observe the closing procedures,” Browne said.
“The voting process will be monitored during the course of the day, the closing of the poll will be observed and, finally, the tallying of the ballots will be observed by the CEOM.”
The polls close at 7 p.m.