Principal Government Officials
Chief of State: President Desire Delano Bouterse
Head of Government: President Desire Delano Bouterse
The Republic of Suriname is a constitutional democracy based on the 1987 constitution. The legislative branch of government consists of a 51-member unicameral National Assembly, simultaneously and popularly elected for a 5-year term.
The executive branch is headed by the president, who is elected by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly or, failing that, by a majority of the People's Assembly for a 5-year term. If at least two-thirds of the National Assembly cannot agree to vote for one presidential candidate, a People's Assembly is formed from all National Assembly delegates and regional and municipal representatives who were elected by popular vote in the most recent national election. A vice president, normally elected at the same time as the president, needs a simple majority in the National Assembly or People's Assembly to be elected for a 5-year term. As head of government, the president appoints a cabinet of ministers, currently numbered at 17 and apportioned among the various political parties represented in the ruling coalition. There is no constitutional provision for removal or replacement of the president unless he resigns or passes away while in function.
A 15-member State Advisory Council advises the president in the conduct of policy. Eleven of the 15 council seats are allotted by proportional representation of all political parties represented in the National Assembly. The president chairs the council; two seats are allotted to representatives of labor, and two are allotted to employers' organizations.
The judiciary is headed by the Court of Justice (Supreme Court). This court supervises the magistrate courts. Members are appointed for life by the president in consultation with the National Assembly, the State Advisory Council, and the National Order of Private Attorneys.
The country is divided into 10 administrative districts, each headed by a district commissioner appointed by the president. The commissioner is somewhat similar to the governor of a U.S. state but serves at the president's pleasure.
Since independence in 1975, Suriname has become a member of 14 international organizations: the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Non-Aligned Movement. Suriname is a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market and the Association of Caribbean States; it is associated with the European Union through the Lome Convention. The Netherlands has been Suriname's biggest donor, since independence, but has been surpassed by the U.S. as a trade partner. Suriname participates in the Amazonian Pact, a grouping of the countries of the Amazon Basin that focuses on protection of the Amazon region's natural resources from environmental degradation. Reflecting its status as a major bauxite producer, Suriname is also a member of the International Bauxite Association. The country also belongs to the Economic Commission for Latin America, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. In 2008, Suriname signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Since taking office in 2010, the Bouterse government has focused on bolstering its regional relationships, assuming leadership positions in multilateral organizations such as the OAS, UNASUR, and CARICOM, and strengthening its ties to France, Venezuela, China, and Cuba. Bilateral relations with The Netherlands have weakened due to its strong statements against the Bouterse presidency and when he assumed office, as well as the decline in economic assistance with the completion of the Treaty Funds.
At independence, Suriname signed an agreement with the Netherlands providing for about $1.5 billion in development assistance grants and loans over a 10- to 15-year period, called the Treaty Funds. Initial disbursements amounted to about $100 million per year, but were discontinued during the 1980’s period of military rule. After the return to a democratically elected government in 1991, Dutch aid resumed. The Dutch relationship continued to be an important factor in the economy, with the Dutch insisting that Suriname undertake economic reforms and produce specific plans acceptable to the Dutch for projects on which aid funds could be spent. In 2000, the Dutch revised the structure of their aid package and signaled to the Surinamese authorities their decision to disburse aid by sectoral priorities as opposed to individual projects. In 2001 both governments agreed to spend the remaining development funds to finance programs in 6 different sectors: health care, education, environment, agriculture, housing, and governance. In 2008 the Dutch aid was fully allocated to all identified and jointly approved sector programs, which started the process of ending the Dutch donor aid to Suriname. In 2010, the Netherlands stated that Dutch Treaty funds had been allocated and should be fully depleted by 2012. .
Bilateral cooperation agreements with several countries in the region have underscored the government's interest in strengthening regional ties. The return to Suriname from French Guiana of about 8,000 refugees from the 1986-91 Interior War between the military and domestic insurgents has improved relations with French authorities. Longstanding border disputes with Guyana and French Guiana remain unresolved. Negotiations with the Government of Guyana brokered by the Jamaican Prime Minister in 2000 did not produce an agreement, but the countries agreed to restart talks after Guyanese national elections in 2001. In January 2002, the presidents of Suriname and Guyana met in Suriname and agreed to resume negotiations, establishing the Suriname-Guyana border commission. In 2004 Guyana brought a complaint against Suriname under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) regarding their maritime border dispute. In 2007, the UN International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) ruled that both Suriname and Guyana are entitled to their share of the disputed offshore basin which is believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits. Using the equidistance line, the tribunal awarded Suriname 6,900 sq. miles and Guyana 12,800 sq. miles of this basin. Suriname's earlier dispute with Brazil ended amicably after formal demarcation of their shared border.
Sources:CIA World Factbook (June 2011)
U.S. Dept. of State Country Background Notes ( June 2011)