Suriname Political Reviews

Thirty years after the 1980 coup, Desirée Bouterse returned to power in Suriname, this time as a democratically elected president. Will his promises of change maintain economic stability and better conditions for most people?

In 2010, Suriname made a peaceful, democratic election at a new national assembly where the coalition Mega Combinatie departed with the victory. One of the four parties that make up this coalition is the National Democratic Party (NDP), whose leader, Desirée Bouterse, was given the presidency by the recently elected National Assembly.

In 1980, Bouterse led a coup and seized power in the country of Suriname according to Countryaah. The NDP was established in 1987, when he officially relinquished power and introduced a democratic form of government. Since that time, the party has participated in elections and held office. The party has always been contentious.

The condemnation of the party and the leader is partly due to Bouterses conviction for drug smuggling in the Netherlands, but also largely his involvement in the execution of 15 oppositionists in 1982. He and his party are also unpopular among many who remember the instability when he ruled. Because of the conviction, he has long been wanted by Interpol and has thus been unable to move beyond the borders of the country. But among many, especially young people, the NDP is still popular, much because the party’s main message is change. The party leader is also considered a strong charismatic man. The party advocates “the four renewals”, which entails changes in the current political, social and socio-economic order, as well as educational policy.

The basic pillars of the economy

Due to Bouterses background, the period after the election was characterized by uncertainty, especially considering how the outside world would react. The Netherlands expressed before the election that if Bouterse won, they would not maintain contact with the country, but after some diplomatically unfortunate statements, the Netherlands has so far chosen to maintain its embassy in the capital and contact with the country’s authorities. Now that Bouterse is president, Interpol can’t arrest him either – even if he leaves Surinam. But others also feared that the new political climate would affect economic stability and scare investors out of the country.

So far, the NDP has managed to keep the economy stable. Several countries in the region have been affected by the financial crisis, while Surinam has performed relatively well during this period. According to The Economist, this is mainly due to stable prices for the three commodities that top the country’s export list: gold, alumina and oil.

Also under Bouterse, these three sectors are dominated by foreign companies. In alumina, where the bauxite raw material is extracted, it is Suralco, a sub-company of US Alcoa, which has exclusive rights to the operating mines after the withdrawal of Australian BHP-Biliton in 2010.

In the gold sectors, the Canadian-based company IAMGOLD operates and owns 95 percent of the largest gold mine in Suriname. The company is also involved in mining and gold mining in Colombia and Guyana. Foreign companies are also involved on the oil front. After oil discoveries have been made off the coast of French Guiana, Statoil has also come onto the field and purchased a third of an exploration permit covering areas off the coast of Suriname.


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