Suriname Public Policy

Latin America

Current policy

Suriname is a country located in the region of South America. Former coup maker and military dictator Desi Bouterse returned to power in Suriname in 2010. However, he lost the election in May 2020 and is scheduled to be replaced by former Justice Minister Chan Santokhi by August 13. Bouterse has been sentenced to prison for a massacre in the 1980s but the verdict has been appealed.

The election on May 25 was carried out despite the ongoing corona pandemic. Movement restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic were temporarily lifted to allow people to go to the polling stations. Opinion polls before the election pointed out that the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) would lose its majority in the National Assembly, which elect the president.

Preliminary results after the election also pointed to a shift in power. But accusations of irregularities appeared from several directions and the government demanded a recast of the votes. Only four weeks after the election came the message of the electoral authority: the largest party became the Progressive Reform Party (VHP) led by Chan Santokhi. VHP is expected to form a four-party coalition with a total of 33 of the 51 seats.

During the election campaign, the NDP pressed on what has been achieved during the party’s ten years in power: a strengthened social protection network, including compulsory health insurance and pensions, as well as several major infrastructure projects and land for the landless. The opposition accused the NDP of widespread corruption and warned that the country could not afford the spending increases that contributed to a financial crisis.

In November 2019, a military court sentenced President Bouterse to 20 years in prison, following a legal process that has been going on for twelve years. The message from three judges in one panel was unexpected and came at the same time as the 74-year-old president was on an official visit to China. But Bouterse returned a few days later, telling a radio station that he was still a candidate in the May elections. “In capital letters! You will not be able to miss the name,” was his comment.

The murder case was appealed and later postponed due to the corona pandemic, but is now expected to resume.

Six other former military officers were also convicted of the so-called December assassinations in 1982, of 15 people murdered who were opposed to the then military regime (see Modern History and Democracy and Rights). Bouterse was then military commander and in practice ruled Suriname.


In the 2010 election won an election alliance that included Bouterses party NDP. The National Assembly then elected the old coup maker Bouterse as president, with the vote numbers 36-14. Many younger voters apparently believed in Bouterses’ claims that the 1982 murder charges were more or less fabricated by the former governing coalition, to access him politically. The trial against Bouterse and eleven co-accused had been suspended to resume after the election.

In April 2012, Parliament passed a law granting Bouterse immunity for crimes committed during his military rule 1980-1991. Amnestine broke his leg for the ongoing trial against Bouterse and others accused of the December murders. The law also caused the already strained relations with the former colonial power of the Netherlands to further deteriorate (see Foreign Policy and Defense).

However, the president’s son Dino Bouterse was arrested in Panama in 2013 and extradited to the United States, where he is charged with drug trafficking and arms smuggling. After a few months, prosecutors in New York announced that he was also suspected of terrorist offenses. Dino Bouterse, who was the head of the anti-terrorism unit in Suriname, must have helped the Lebanon-based Shiite Hezbollah movement, which according to the prosecutor, planned to use Surinam as a base for attacks against the United States. In 2005, Dino Bouterse was sentenced to eight years in prison for the smuggling of drugs, weapons and stolen luxury cars, but was released after three years. In March 2015, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison in the United States.

Ahead of the May 2015 parliamentary elections, the now 69-year-old Bouterse expressed great confidence that the NDP would now take home the election on its own, without a coalition partner, and he himself would be re-elected as president. Bouterse spoke of “a strong foundation for the country’s future” with reference to social programs introduced to improve education, health care and housing.

The main contenders were the opposition alliance, now called itself V7, which, like 2010, was led by Chan Santokhi. He was a police chief during the investigation that led to Bouterse being singled out for the December murders. V7, an alliance of six opposition parties with a broad ethnic base, accused the government of far-reaching corruption.

The election resulted in a convincing victory for the NDP, which now gained its own majority in the National Assembly.


Official name

Republic of Suriname / Suriname


republic, unitary state

Head of State and Government

President Desi Bouterse (2010–)

Most important parties with mandates in the last election

National Democratic Party (NDP) 26, V7 18, A-combination 5, others 2 (2015) 1

Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections

Mega Combination 23, New Front 14, A Combination 7, Folk Alliance for Progress 6, Others 1 (2010)


73.2% of the 2010 parliamentary elections

Upcoming elections

parliamentary elections 2025

  1. The result of the elections in May 2020 is not complete yet.