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Ex-Suriname Dictator’s Party Gains Seats

May 26, 2005

PARAMARIBO, Suriname (AP) _ Suriname’s ruling coalition survived an election challenge from a former dictator in this tiny former Dutch colony, preliminary results showed Thursday.

But former dictator Desi Bouterse’s National Democratic Party more than doubled its seats in the National Assembly, increasing the clout of a man convicted of drug trafficking in the Netherlands and accused of ordering the killings of 15 dissidents. Bouterse has denied drug trafficking and involvement in the killings.

President Ronald Venetiaan’s New Front coalition won at least 23 of the 51 seats in the assembly, down from 33 in the outgoing parliament, according to preliminary elections results. The National Democratic Party won 15 seats; it had held seven.

Neither side appeared to have won the two-thirds majority needed to choose the next president, forcing them to seek alliances with smaller parties. The results were announced after 60 percent of the votes were counted in the capital, Paramaribo.

The United States and the Netherlands had warned relations would suffer if Bouterse regained power, citing his 1999 conviction in the Netherlands. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison, but Suriname and the Netherlands have a treaty prohibiting extradition of each other’s citizens.

Bouterse argues Suriname must break its dependence on aid from its former colonial ruler and bolster alliances with other Third World nations.

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