Suriname became an independent state in 1975.
Five years later, Colonel Desi Bouterse conducted a
military coup. In practice, he ruled the country until
1987, when a people-elected government took office.
However, the military retained influence and Bouterse
retained a prominent role, despite the verdict in the
Netherlands for drug smuggling and prosecution in the
home country for the murder of opinion opponents in the
At independence in 1975, the Creole Henck Arron
became prime minister. Arron's coalition won the
election in 1977 but struggled with a stagnant economy.
In February 1980, Colonel Desiré ("Desi") Bouterse, with
support in the left circles, carried out a military
coup. Parliament was dissolved and the constitution was
repealed. A civilian government was set up, but in
practice Bouterse and his military council ruled.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Suriname. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
The economy did not get better, and Bouterse
gradually lost support from the left and the unions.
Resistance to the military regime was silenced by
terror. After the "December assassination" in 1982, of
15 union leaders, journalists, military and
intellectuals, the Netherlands and other donors withdrew
all aid to Suriname.
Bouterse became increasingly close to states such as
Cuba and Libya, but he faded the revolutionary noises
following the US intervention against the left
government on the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1983.
The following year, the state of emergency was lifted
from the coup, and under strong pressure from the
outside world, Surinam took the first the steps towards
reinstating civilian rule. From 1986, political parties
were allowed to resume, and Surinam's old ethnic parties
resumed their seats on the scene.
A new constitution was adopted in 1987. In November,
the first parliamentary elections were held for eight
years. An election alliance between three traditional
parties - a "Creole", an "Indian" and a "Javanese" - won
the election with 40 of the 51 seats. The National
Assembly appointed the leader of the Indian-dominated
party, Ramsewak Shankar, as president. The Netherlands
again provided assistance, albeit with much stricter
conditions than before. Soon it was clear that the
military retained real power.
The year before the 1987 elections, a new cloud of
turmoil had sailed when maroons (see Population and
Languages) in the interior of Surinam triggered an
uprising. The Maroons feared that the autonomy they had
been guaranteed since 1761 was threatened by the
military's development plans. They formed the guerrilla
movement SLA (popularly called the Jungle Command) and
attacked new plants in the rainforest for bauxite and
palm oil. The army responded with attacks against
villages and by arming and inciting some indigenous
people to the Maroons. During battles that followed,
some 10,000 maroons fled to French Guiana. Bouterse
sabotaged President Shankar's attempt to reach a deal
In December 1990, Bouterse and the military overthrew
Shankar in a bloody coup. A party founded by Bouterse,
the National Democratic Party (NDP), formed a new
government. At the same time, more and more information
emerged that the military was involved in illegal drug
cultivation and international drug trafficking.
After the coup
In May 1991, new elections were held, which observers
described as "largely correct". Victory made the same
alliance as 1987, although it was expanded by one party
and now called itself the New Front (Nieuw Front, NF).
Ronald (Runaldo) Venetiaan, new leader of the NPS Creole
Party, was named president. His government negotiated a
peace agreement with SLA in 1992. SLA recognized the
state's authority throughout the country, and the
government in turn promised to respect the rights of the
maroons, including finding gold, cutting timber and
recruiting. Later that year Desi Bouterse resigned as
The Venetian implemented austerity policies that
helped push down soaring inflation, but it also put
pressure on the population. High food prices triggered
riots in Paramaribo. Following strong criticism from
environmental groups, the government postponed a
decision to grant large parts of the country's forests
to Asian forest companies.
When elections were held in 1996, the NDP received 16
seats and the New Front "only" 24, which led to the
front temporarily falling apart. NDP candidate Jules
Wijdenbosch was elected president after promising to
keep Bouterse out of government. However, Wijdenbosch
was generally regarded as Bouterses puppet, and despite
his promise, he gave Bouterse a high official position
as adviser. Wijdenbosch's economic policy left the
country in crisis, and after strikes and demonstrations,
new elections were announced until May 2000. Now the New
Front won a reassuring majority, and Ronald Venetiaan
again became Surinam's president. The austerity policy
was resumed and the economy stabilized.
The 2000 elections became a relative hardship for the
old coup maker Bouterse, although he got a seat in
parliament. He had been sentenced to eleven years in
prison the year before in his absence in the
Netherlands, for cocaine smuggling. In December 2004, he
and 25 others were indicted in Suriname for the December
1982 murder, but the trial first began in 2007.
NF won the election convincingly and gained its own
majority in the National Assembly. Ronald (Runaldo)
Venetiaan became president again.
Ahead of the next parliamentary elections, in May
2005, the Government Coalition emphasized the economic
progress achieved through a market-oriented policy. The
opposition, for its part, sought to win votes on
dissatisfaction with poverty, high crime, corruption and
shortcomings in school and care. The NDP mainly reached
out to young voters. Faced with the possibility of the
NDP winning and Bouterse becoming president, the US
threatened to suspend all aid to Suriname.
Despite the threats, the NDP strengthened its
position and the NF lost its majority in the elections.
As a result, the ruling party formed a coalition with
the small Democratic Alternative '91 and with the
Alliance A combination of three maroon parties. The
Maroons thus got a clear representation in the National
Assembly for the first time. Their presence paid more
attention to the fiery conflict between Maroons and
indigenous peoples on the one hand and forest and mining
companies on the other.
The new parliament tried twice to appoint a new
president, but neither Ronald Venetiaan nor the NDP
candidate Rabin Parmessar received the two-thirds of the
votes required. In accordance with the constitution, a
people congress was then convened with 891 delegates,
and in August President Venetiaan was re-elected with
560 votes against 315 for Parmessar.
In March 2007, Bouterse apologized for the December
murders. He assumed political responsibility but
continued to claim that he was not present at the time
of the murder.
In 2008 and 2009, two former Venetian government
ministers were sentenced to prison for corruption.
The trial of Bouterse for the December murders
continued to be delayed - only in January 2009 was
Bouterse called to appear in court, but he did not come.
Bouterse said he did not intend to allow the trial to
prevent him from being elected president in 2010.
In December 2009, disputes between Surinamese and
immigrant gold miners exploded in the city of Albina,
near the border with French Guiana. In revenge for a
knife act, Maroons and Indigenous people first attacked
Brazilians and then Chinese as well. Women were raped,
buildings burned and hundreds fled before police and
military stopped the riots.
Ahead of the May 2010 parliamentary elections,
incumbent President Venetiaan did not stand for
re-election. The candidate for the NF Alliance was Chan
Santokhi instead. The May elections were quiet, and
observers from OAS did not observe any irregularities.
The election victory went to an alliance, the
Megacombination, dominated by the NDP. The
mega-combination did not get its own majority, but
formed government with two smaller parties: the
A-combination and the Folk Alliance for Progress. Among
other things, the A combination was given the post of
Minister of Police and Justice, which was seen as a
symbolically important gesture in view of the abuses
that the Maroons were subjected to during Bouterses rule
in the 1980s. Thereafter, the National Assembly elected
Bouterse as the country's president.