PARAMARIBO, Suriname -- Suriname's electoral authorities have finally announced preliminary results from the May 25 elections won by opposition parties, which on Friday accused the government of Desi Bouterse of obstructing efforts to seat a new legislature in the small South American nation.
The results — which in past years were announced almost immediately — were released Thursday night just an hour before the government imposed sweeping limits on public activity to fight a flareup of COVID-19.
Four opposition parties have formed a coalition to elect the next president in August, though they remain one vote short of the 34 needed for a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, which is required to elect the president.
The parties issued a statement accusing the government of obstructionism, noting that delays in the vote counting process are pushing it toward the June 24 deadline set by law for seating the new legislature.
The United Reform Party leapfrogged past Bouterse's National Democratic Party, winning 20 seats, up from nine, while the government party fell from 26 to 16.
The Reform Party's chief, former police officer Chandrikapersad ‘Chan’ Santokhi, is expected to become the next president.
Bouterse, who won democratic elections a decade ago, has suffered from an economic crisis and from a 2019 conviction for murder involving political opponents of the military government he led from 1980 to 1987. A Dutch court also has convicted him in absentia of drug trafficking, which he denies.
He has remained free in part because he holds the presidency and he is appealing the murder conviction.
Bouterse has been largely invisible since Monday, though the leader of one of the opposition coalition parties said the president had contacted him in attempt to get him to switch sides.
Bouterse's party also has demanded a recount in some areas.
The election announcement came as the country of about 600,000 people suddently announced scores of active cases of COVID-19, up from none a week ago. Authorities imposed a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, ordered non-essential businesses closed and said people can travel only two to a car, and only to get food or medicine. Facemasks are now mandatory in shops and meetings of more than five people are banned.
The number of active cases rose to 80 on Friday.
“With the COVID-19 situation, the economic situation is getting worse. The new government must therefore get to work quickly,” the coalition parties said in their statement.