An estimated 380,000 people will take part in the elections in a country with a population of approximately half a million. The authorities indicated that voters who attend polling stations must comply with some preventive COVID-19 measures, such as physical distancing and the frequent washing of hands.
There are 17 parties contesting the 51 legislative seats.
Suriname is the first country in the region to organize an election under the current COVID-19 conditions and will therefore serve as a model for the region. St. Kitts and Nevis will go to the polls to elect a new government on June 5.
Suriname, like most CARICOM member states, has been rocked by the Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) and the economy is in steep decline. In addition, a scandal at the central bank where President Robert van Trikt was sacked over the misappropriation of the $100 million and the government struggled to find a permanent replacement has shaken confidence in the financial system.
The deterioration in Suriname’s economic situation has raised major questions over its ability to repay its debt. Fitch, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s all downgraded Suriname’s debt ratings, the first two agencies to default levels.
If the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which is running on its record of social reforms and major infrastructure spending, maintains its current 26-seats, it will keep its one-seat majority in the Assembly.
The party will then mobilize its political allies to mobilize the needed two-thirds votes to ensure that President Desi Bouterse secures a third term in office.
In many regards, the 2020 elections may be seen as a referendum on the 74-year old Bouterse, who has played a major role in Suriname’s political development since the 1980 military coup. President Bouterse has since been sentenced by a Surinamese military court in November 2019 to 20 years in prison, for the December 1982 executions of 15 political opponents arising from the coup.
Bouterse led the military junta in Suriname in 1980 after the "Sergeants' Coup," which overthrew the government of Henck Arron. He became president of the country in 2010 and was re-elected five years later.
If the party loses any seats, rival Chandrikapersad Santokhi of the Progressive Reform Party (VHP) is favourite to take office.
“In response to the request from the Government of the Republic of Suriname, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has fielded a CARICOM Election Observation Mission to monitor the general elections which will be held on Monday, 25 May 2020,” a statement from the CARICOM secretariat said.
The smallest country in South America has reported 11 cases of confirmed infections with one death. The 11th case is a Brazilian who allegedly entered the country illegally alongside eight other men, according to the country's health ministry.
Two weeks ago, the government started easing lockdown measures by opening up businesses. But it kept borders with French Guiana and Guyana closed.
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