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Last updated: 26 May, 2005 - Published 20:22 GMT
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Suriname elections inconclusive
ronald venetiann
President Venetiaan has already served two separate terms as head of government.
Suriname President Ronald Venetiaan's New Front coalition won the most seats in parliamentary elections, preliminary results showed on Thursday.

But the coalition failed to gain the two-thirds majority needed to elect a new president.

Results so far show the New Front has picked up 23 of the 51 seats in parliament, down from 33.

It is followed by the National Democratic Party of the former military leader, Desi Bouterse, which doubled the number of seats it held.

The NDP is the largest single party in the parliament with 15 seats.

Mr Bouterse was convicted in a Dutch court for drug-smuggling; charges that he denied.

Both the Netherlands and the United States warned that relations with Suriname, a former Dutch colony, would suffer if Mr Bouterse returned to power.

"Different Prediction"

The former military leader said he had expected his party to win more seats, but was happy with the outcome.

"We had made a slightly different prediction, but we cannot be unhappy," he said in an interview with the Suriname Television Foundation.

Under Suriname's electoral system, the next president needs the support of two-thirds of the newly-elected parliament.

If parliament fails, the choice will fall to the 895-member United People's Assembly, which combines the National Assembly with elected district and local councils from across the country.

This body can elect the president by simple majority.

Surinamese political analyst Jack Menke said the voters, particularly the poor, may have punished the governing coalition because of perceived social and economic inequalities.

Mr Menke raised doubts about the future of president Venetiann, who has already served two separate terms.

He said the results showed the voters were looking for change.

As to Mr Bouterse, the analyst said he was expected to play an influential role behind the scenes in the formation of a new government but was unlikely to be a part of it.

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