Democracy and rights
Abbreviated as SUR by Abbreviationfinder, Suriname is an electoral democracy, however, characterized by corruption and a weak rule of law. The president himself has been convicted of murder in a trial that went on for over a decade. The judgment has been appealed.
Elections are conducted regularly and the opposition has a fair chance of winning. However, voice purchases occur. Prior to the 2015 elections, the NDP government provided, among other things, at least 5,000 people with government jobs, and more than 5,000 individuals were allocated land areas (or permits to the land).
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The electoral authority has stated that people who have not exercised their right to vote in the last ten years have been removed from the electoral rolls ahead of the 2020 elections. According to critics, this favored the sitting government. Another provision that favors larger parties is that parties are no longer allowed to form alliances before the elections.
The National Assembly passed a law against corruption in 2017 which, however, has not been applicable since supplementary legislation is lagging behind. In Transparency International’s index of corruption in 180 countries, Surinam is ranked 70th. It is a better position than most countries in South and Central America (the full list is here).
Minority groups have relatively little representation in political assemblies. Only 13 out of 51 MPs were women after the 2015 elections. Maroons (see Population and Languages) often have less access to education and employment than others.
Freedom of expression and media
Freedom of the press and opinion is generally well respected. Suriname is ranked 20 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index (list here). Of all the countries in the Western Hemisphere, only four are better located (Jamaica, Costa Rica, Canada and Uruguay).
However, many journalists avoid sensitive topics. Memories of persecution during the dictatorship of the 1980s sit in. Journalists, for example, rarely report that those guilty of abuses under military rule are still free from punishment.
The government has established an increasingly influential information institute, and uses state media to give publicity to its work. Other political parties will only be allowed space in the broadcasts two months before an election.
Judicial system and legal security
The judicial system in Surinam is formally independent but is considered to be susceptible to political pressure. Corruption and a large shortage of judges and other staff make the judicial system slow and ineffective.
Police are often accused of brutality, especially in connection with arrests. The detention and prisons are often overcrowded and in poor condition.
President Desi Bouterse himself was convicted of murdering 15 opponents of the military regime in 1982, when he was army chief (see Modern History). In November 2019, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murders, but the sentence was immediately appealed (see Current Policy). The trial began in 2007 against Bouterse and other suspects for the so-called December murders. The process has mostly stalled and in 2012 Parliament passed a law granting Bouterse immunity for crimes committed under military rule. But in 2016, a military court declared the amnesty law unconstitutional and the trial resumed. The president was then one of the 14 suspects who remain (several have died). Bouterse has assumed “political responsibility” for the murders, as he was the army chief and the country’s strong man when executed, but refuses any direct involvement.