Suriname Government and Politics

State and politics

Suriname Country Flag

Reference: Suriname Flag Meaning

In accordance with the 1987 Constitution, Parliament has 51 members who are elected in general elections every five years. Parliament appoints the President, who is head of state and government, and appoints the other members of the government who are responsible to Parliament.

The military plays a major role, not least in the National Council, which has significant political influence. In the years 1980–88, military dictatorship prevailed under Officer Dési Bouterse, who, even after the transition to democracy, is a force to be reckoned with in Surinamese politics. He ran for president in 2005, when then-President Ronald Venetiaan (born 1936) was re-elected for a second term. However, Bouterse was appointed president in both 2010 and 2015. He was sentenced in November 2019 by a military court to 20 years in prison for a 1982 massacre, but decided to appeal the verdict and remain at the presidential post.

According to, Suriname has a large number of political parties, but ideological dividing lines are difficult to discern. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of SR and its meanings of Suriname.


The legal system in Suriname is based on a combination of Dutch legal heritage and domestic legislation. The death penalty remains in the penal code but is de facto abolished in 1982.

Heads of State


1975-80 Johan HE Ferrier
1980-82 Hendrik Chin A. Sen
1982-88 Lachmipersad Fred Ramdat-Misier
1988-90 Ramsewak Shankar
1990-91 Johan Kragen
1991-96 Ronald Venetiaan
1996-2000 Jules Wijdenbosch
2000-2010 Ronald Venetiaan
2010- This is Bouterse

Suriname Head of Government

History and Politics

Indigenous peoples

Not until 3000 BC The area of ​​today’s Suriname was settled. Arawak and Caribs settled on the coast. The Arawak were partly driven out by the warring Caribs. Smaller ethnic groups such as the Tiriyó, Warao, Akurio and Wayana lived in the rainforest of the hinterland.

The Indians called this region Guiana: land of many waters. However, a much larger area was meant: It also included today’s Guyana and French Guiana as well as parts of Venezuela and Brazil.

Battle for the colonies: Dutch and British

While the Spaniards conquered Central and South America, the area further east aroused less interest among them. The Dutch took advantage of this and first founded several colonies in what is now Guyana, i.e. in the western region, which together were also called Dutch Guiana. In 1651 the British came to the Suriname area and established a settlement.

In 1665 the Anglo-Dutch War broke out. It was triggered by the struggle for supremacy in world trade. The war took place mainly in Europe, but there was also fighting off the coast of South America. Suriname was finally conquered by the Dutch on March 6, 1667.

Peace of Breda: Suriname in exchange for New York (1667)

In July 1667, the Peace of Breda was finally concluded. The Netherlands kept Suriname, but gave their North American colony Nieuw Nederland, and thus later New York, to the British.

Dutch Guiana in the 17th and 18th centuries

The Dutch built many plantations for sugar cane, coffee, cocoa and cotton. They brought slaves here from Africa to farm them. Most came from what is now Ghana, Benin and Togo. They had to toil on the plantations under mostly poor conditions.

Some slaves managed to escape into the jungle. There they kept many of their traditions. The descendants of these escaped slaves are called Maroons (or Marrons). They formed communities and organized themselves as a tribe. They often raided the plantations to stock up on essentials. The largest groups in Suriname are the Ndyuka and the Saramaccans.

Iodine savannah

In the 17th century, Jews who had fled the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal and now came to Suriname via further detours settled in Suriname. Their residential area was called Jodensavanne. They also set up plantations on which slaves worked. When the place was devastated in a slave revolt in 1832, the Jews moved to Paramaribo.

1814: Guyana to the British, Suriname to the Netherlands

Ownership changed several times between the Netherlands and England. The Dutch colonies were also known collectively as Dutch Guiana. In 1814, Guyana finally fell to the British at the Congress of Vienna, Suriname remained with the Netherlands.

1863 Abolition of slavery – contract workers from India, China and Java

Slavery was finally abolished in 1863, but the previous slaves were forced to remain on the plantations as paid workers for another ten years. 35,000 slaves were given freedom. In 1873 there were no workers. So it was decided to hire contract workers. So Suriname became a multi-ethnic state.

The Dutch government signed an agreement with the UK to recruit contract workers from British India. In Suriname as well as in British Guiana (now Guyana), many Indians immigrated. Workers also came from China.

August Kappler

August Kappler (1815-1887) was a German merchant. Looking for a job, he joined the Dutch colonial army in 1836 and came to Suriname. There he founded the place Albina in 1846, which he named after his wife. He loved the Suriname nature and did research on it. He also traded and worked as a postman and border official.

From 1890, more workers were hired from the island of Java (Indonesia). That was a Dutch colony at the time. The aim was to be independent of Great Britain, which could have stopped the influx of workers from British India at any time. From 1916, Mahatma Gandhi also prevented more workers from coming from India.

The way to independence

In 1954, Suriname got more rights. It became a self-governing part of the Netherlands and was no longer a colony. Suriname was given independence on November 25, 1975. A third of the population then emigrated for fear of economic problems in the small state. Johan Ferrier became the first president of Suriname.

Military dictatorship (1980-1987)

In 1980 there was a military coup led by Desi Bouterse. Ferrier was deposed and Hendrick Chin A Sen was appointed new president. But Bouterse retained power in the state. There was a dispute between Chin A Sen and Bouterse about the further course, because Chin A Sen campaigned for more democracy. He finally resigned in 1982 and Fred Ramdat Misier became the new president.

December 1982 murders and 1986 Moiwana massacre

In the same year, 15 members of the opposition (political opponents) were murdered by the military in December (December murders). In 1986 a guerrilla war began against the military government. The guerrilla (Jungle Commando) was led by Ronnie Brunswijk, an Ndyuka and former bodyguard of Bouterse. In Moiwana, a Ndyuka village and place of residence of Brunswijk, the military carried out a massacre on November 29, in which 39 people died (Moiwana massacre). Thousands of residents of the surrounding villages then fled to French Guiana.

In 1987 Desi Bouterse founded the National Democratic Party (NDP). In 1999 Desi Bouterse was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the Netherlands – in absentia. He could no longer leave Suriname. In 2000, Ronnie Brunswijk felt the same way: he was sentenced to six years in prison for drug smuggling and cannot leave Suriname.

Elections 1987 – military coup 1990 – changing governments

In 1987 there were free and secret elections for the first time. The new constitution stipulated that in Suriname the head of government elected by parliament is also the president of the state (that is, then parliament-bound executive power).

In 1990, the military overthrew Ramsewak Shankar’s government and installed Johan Kraag as interim president. The Netherlands stopped their aid payments to the country. In 1991 elections were held again and Ronald Venetiaan from the Nationale Partij Suriname (NPS) replaced Kraag. In 1992 the civil war was finally ended. But the economy was bad: The price of aluminum fell, corruption flourished, the long guerrilla war and acts of sabotage by the rebels had destroyed the infrastructure.

In 1996, the Bouterse NDP was able to provide the president for the first time: Jules Albert Wijdenbosch ruled until 2000. But then Ronald Venetiaan won again with a merger of his party and other parties. In 2004 the guilder was replaced by the Surinamese dollar. In 2005 Venetiaan was narrowly re-elected.

2010: Bouterse becomes president

In 2010, Bouterse was elected President of Suriname. In 2007 the trial of the December murders began. In 2012, all of the defendants, including the lead defendant Bouterse, were granted amnesty (pardon). In 2011, Bouterse pardoned his adopted son convicted of robbery and murder. Bouterse won the elections again in 2015. In November 2019, the Suriname Military Court sentenced Desi Bouterse to 20 years in prison for the December murders. Presidential elections will take place in Suriname again on May 25, 2020. If Bouterses is re-elected, he will continue to enjoy immunity, i.e. he will be exempt from prosecution.

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