Parliamentary General Elections were held in Suriname on 25 May 2010 for all 51 seats in the National Assembly.
The 51 members in the unicameral National Assembly are elected from 10 constituencies on the basis of a party-list proportional representation system that involves preferential voting. The 10 electoral constituencies are coterminous with the ten administrative districts of Suriname. The National Assembly subsequently elects the President.
On 6 October 2009, President Ronald Venetiaan announced that parliamentary elections would be held on 25 May 2010. A newly elected National Assembly would elect the country's President. Mr. Venetiaan, a 73-year old veteran politician serving his third term as President, said he would not run again.
In July 2005, the National Assembly failed twice to elect a president after candidates failed to secure the necessary two-thirds majority (34 votes). Pursuant to the Surinamese Constitution, the United People's Assembly (a body representing district and regional councils) was convened in August and re-elected Mr. Venetiaan as president.
Since the 2005 elections, President Venetiaan's administration has been rocked by numerous scandals related to land grants reportedly involving several cabinet ministers and PLP officials.
In July 2008, the trial began of Mr. Bouterse and 24 others allegedly involved in the killing of 15 opposition leaders in 1982 under the former's military regime. It had not been concluded by the 2010 elections. If convicted, Mr. Bouterse faces a 20-year prison sentence. He was also sentenced to 11 years in prison by a Dutch court for drug smuggling in 1999, but has not been sent to the Netherlands because a treaty between the two countries prohibits extradition.
In March 2010, the PLP announced that it would not run for the 2010 elections on its own. PLP leader and outgoing Speaker, Mr. Paul Somohardjo, was eyeing the presidency but the NF had reportedly backed the incumbent Vice-President Ram Sardjoe, VHP leader. Mr. Somohardjo argued that his PLP would be able to win at least 10 seats while the NF gave it only nine slots in its joint candidate list. He subsequently formed a new party, the People's Alliance (VA), comprising small ethnic Javanese parties.
Political Parties & Candidates
In the 2010 elections, in which eight parties were running, President Venetiaan's NF was challenged by the Mega Combination. The latter comprised Mr. Bouterse's NDP, the New Suriname (NU), the Palu party (a left-wing party) and the Indonesian Peasant's Party (KTPI). Mr. Bouterse was widely expected to become the country's new president if there was no clear majority in parliament, since his camp held 567 of the 919 seats in the United People's Assembly.
The NF ran on the government's record. Vice-President Sardjoe called on voters to support the NF as the only party offering economic development to improve the people's lives. Justice Minister Chandrikapersad Santokhi pledged to lead a "clear stable future" that would encourage Surinamese abroad to return. Many NF candidates referred to the military regime led by Mr. Bouterse and urged voters to support the NF so as to prevent a return to "repression and disastrous policies".
President Venetiaan said that the NF would not form a new government with Mr. Bouterse because of his ongoing court case and the role he had played in overthrowing the government in 1980.
Mr. Bouterse said he would seek the presidency if his Mega Combination won enough seats in the elections. His opponents claimed that his bid for the presidency was a way to avoid imprisonment and grant amnesty to all those involved in the 1982 killings. The Mega Combination promised to create more jobs and affordable housing. It was reportedly gaining support among young voters, who make up 60 per cent of the electorate and are not old enough to remember the period of military rule.
A-Com leader Brunswijk also announced that he would seek the presidency but did not rule out possible cooperation with Mr. Bouterse in the new government.
The observer team of the Organization of American States (OAS) said the elections were marked by the country's "civility, professionalism and democratic commitment". It nevertheless recommended that the Election Commission provide greater assistance to persons with disabilities. The CARICOM observers said the elections had been free and fair.
The final results gave 23 seats to the Mega Combination. The NF came in second with 14 seats. A-Com and the VA took seven and six seats respectively. The Party for Democracy and Development through Unity (DOE, a Christian party) won its first seat in parliament. Five women were elected.
The newly elected parliament comprised 17 Hindustani, 11 Creole, nine Javanese, 10 Maroon, two Amerindians and two Chinese members. In all, 31 candidates (60.78 per cent) were elected to the National Assembly for the first time.
On 30 June, the newly elected National Assembly held its first session and elected Ms. Jennifer Geerlings-Simons (Mega Combination) as its new Speaker and Ms. Ruth Wijdenbosch of the National Party of Suriname as Deputy Speaker.
On 19 July, the National Assembly elected Mr. Bouterse (Mega Combination) as the country's new President. His candidature was supported by his Mega Combination, A-Com and the VA.
On 12 August, Mr. Bouterse was officially sworn in as the country's President. He subsequently formed a coalition government comprising the parties which supported him in the indirect presidential elections.
Voter turnout was 73.21%.