Leader of the Mega Combination Coalition Desi Bouterse has indicated his interest in becoming Suri-name’s next president and has so far successfully negotiated with one time arch-rival Ronnie Brunswijk and his A-Combination bloc towards forming the new Surinamese government.
The two parties combined will have control of 30 of the 51 seats in the National Assembly, which is still short of the 34 required to elect a new president and vice-president. Bouterse’s party captured 23 seats while the A-Combination captured 7 seats in the May 25 elections. However, a simple majority is enough to form a new government in Suriname and the parties can use this majority to elect a new president, and vice-president in the 919 member People’s Assembly. The Mega Combination has 57 percent of the vote in the People’s Assembly and the A-Combination has 15 percent.
Reports coming out of Suriname suggest that the coalition between Bouterse and Brunswijk was surprising especially since the two were on opposite sides during the civil war which took place from 1986 to 1992. Stabroek News was reliably informed that when the Mega Combination Coalition began “coalition talks” with the A-Combination, they were initially focusing on partnering with the other parties in the bloc.
When the party had begun these negotiations, it was finalizing coalition talks with the Javanese party, People’s Alliance, led by former Speaker of the National Assembly Paul Somohardjo. However, the talks with this party fell through, this newspaper was told, after Somohardjo reportedly started making what were considered excessive demands.
The Mega Combination Coalition announced last week that Bouterse, the leader of the National Democratic Party, is its only choice for president. Bouterse later expressed his desire to assume the post during an appearance on a radio programme on Tuesday last. Bouterse, a convicted drug trafficker, seized power in 1980 following a coup d’état and ruled until 1987 when he stepped down because of international pressure. He briefly seized power again in 1990, following a second coup d’état. He and 11 others are currently being tried in a military court for the killing of 15 opponents in 1982 while he was head of a military junta. Bouterse remains popular in Suriname especially among the young people and the poor. In the lead up to the elections, he had declined to pronounce on whether he would contest the presidency if his party won.
During his campaign, Bouterse pledged that his party would bring significant change to the country’s education system, push the ICT sector, develop and consolidate the country’s major industries, create employment and transform the housing sector. He also promised major infrastructural development such as bridges leading to border countries, a highway from Suriname to Brazil, a sea harbour and a large multi-purpose complex.
In a brief exchange with this newspaper shortly after casting his ballot, Bouterse said should his party assume office one of the first agenda items would be to begin dialogue with neighbouring countries to see how they could cooperate and work in the best interest of both countries.
He spoke about building a bridge across the Corentyne River but declined to elaborate on the controversial New River Triangle, which has been the source of a longstanding territorial dispute between Guyana and Suriname. New River is internationally recognised as being Guyana’s.