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Suriname’s Strongman Seeks 3rd Term

FILE - Suriname's President Desi Bouterse attends a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov. 27, 2019.

Suriname’s president Desi Bouterse is looking to win a third term despite being convicted of murder last year and a separate drug smuggling conviction from the Netherlands.

Voters went to the polls in the former South American Dutch colony Monday to elect the national assembly.

Bouterse’s National Democratic Party must win a plurality in an assembly session in August for him to win another five-year term.

Observers say Bouterse has a good chance of staying in power because of the fractured opposition and the coronavirus which has kept campaigning for Monday’s election to a minimum.

A court in Suriname sentenced Bouterse in absentia to 20 years in prison in November for ordering the executions of political opponents after he seized power in a 1980 military coup. He is appealing the sentence.

A Dutch court also sentenced him to 11 years in prison in 1999 on drug charges, but no country with an extradition treaty with the Netherlands has attempted to make an arrest.

Suriname’s economy is a wreck, but Bouterse hopes the recent discovery of oil off the country’s Atlantic Coast can lead to a revival.

The 79-year-old Bouterse ruled from 1980 until 1987 and returned to power in a 2010 election.