Opposition set to win Suriname election: preliminary results

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Paramaribo (Suriname) (AFP)

Suriname's main opposition party is poised to win the country's general election, preliminary results showed Wednesday, an outcome likely to end the long-time rule of President Desi Bouterse, who was convicted months earlier of ordering the murder of political opponents.

Chan Santokhi's Progressive Reform Party (VHP) was set to win 20 seats in the 51-member parliament which elects the president, ending Bouterse's majority, according to results released by the interior ministry with more than 80 percent of the votes counted.

Bouterse's National Democratic Party (NDP) was likely to win 16 seats following Sunday's polls, a collapse from its 26 seats in the outgoing parliament.

Opposition parties have previously ruled out forming a coalition with the NDP.

Counting is still in progress in the small South American country of 600,000.

Opposition parties and civil organizations raised concern over voting irregularities and the count was twice suspended.

However, an observer mission from the 15-nation Caribbean community CARICOM said it had not detected irregularities.

"We have not detected any evidence of fraudulent acts, but we have seen that the elections were well organized and transparent," said mission chief Dora James.

Bouterse's party has ruled the former Dutch colony for a decade.

The former military officer ruled as a dictator from 1980-87 and seized power briefly a second time in a bloodless coup in 1990. Bouterse was first elected president in 2010.

In November, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a military court for ordering executions during his first period in power, in 1982.

The 74-year-old was convicted of having 15 political opponents -- including lawyers, journalists and businessmen -- rounded up and executed.

The incident, known as the "December killings," was investigated by Santokhi, a former justice minister and police commissioner.

Bouterse appealed his conviction and the case was postponed until June due to the coronavirus pandemic.