Oppn urges Suriname president to concede

Suriname's opposition has urged the country's president Desi Bouterse to concede election defeat.
Suriname's opposition has urged the country's president Desi Bouterse to concede election defeat.

Votes are still being counted three days after Suriname's elections, with the opposition urging the government to concede defeat and President Desi Bouterse calling for a recount even though the final tally has not yet been released.

The counting from Monday's National Assembly election has been extremely slow.

Normally a preliminary result is released the next morning and the failure to do so has irritated the chairman of the Independent Electoral Bureau, Jennifer Van Dijk-Silos, who has called the elections "the worst organized" she has seen in her career.

Suriname's opposition parties said the counting was being delayed to allow Bouterse's National Democratic Party to carry out electoral fraud - a charge it denied.

The 74-year-old Bouterse, a former coup leader who has been convicted of murder and drug smuggling, was hoping to ride the elections into another term despite Suriname's economic problems. The new National Assembly will select the next president in August.

As of Thursday evening, with 90 per cent of votes counted, the opposition United Reform Party led by Chan Santokhi was winning 20 of the 51 seats in parliament. Bouterse's party was winning 16 seats, with other parties grabbing the remaining seats.

A two-thirds vote in parliament is required to elect the president, meaning if Bouterse's party managed to get two more seats, raising its total to 18, it could block Santokhi, a former police officer and justice minister.

"President Bouterse must acknowledge his defeat and start talks on the transfer to a new government," Santokhi said.

Bouterse first came to power in a 1980 coup and ruled for seven years, marked by the December 1982 murders of 15 political opponents.

Last November, a Suriname court convicted Bouterse of murder and sentenced him to 20 years in prison - though it made no move to arrest him and he is appealing.

He also faces an 11-year sentence in the Netherlands for a drug smuggling conviction.

After leaving office, Bouterse built up his party and won democratic elections in 2010, as well as re-election five years later.

Australian Associated Press