Fri, Mar 24, 2023 3:44 PM
By GEROLD ROZENBLAD, AP
PARAMARIBO, Suriname (AP) — A few hundred protesters gathered in Suriname’s capital on Friday to demand that the president of the South American country resign.
They accused the administration of President Chan Santokhi of trying to postpone the 2025 general election, which can’t be organized until legislators amend an electoral law as required by a court ruling last year that aims to create a fairer voting system.
Earlier this week, the government set up a committee that submitted two proposals to amend the electoral law, with Santokhi saying the bill would be presented to legislators within two months. But activists are demanding that the law be approved within a week, even though the chairman of Suriname’s National Assembly warned Thursday that that won’t be enough time.
Activist Maisha Neus said she would organize more protests if there’s a delay.
“We will hit them where it hurts. Economically,” she said.
It is the second such protest since mid-February, when demonstrators stormed Parliament to decry the end of government subsidies that has led to a spike in the cost of power, fuel and water. The mob clashed with police that day, who arrested at least 126 people after initially being taken aback by the fury and size of the crowd.
This time, police outnumbered protesters, and officials set up barricades around the presidential office and Parliament.
“Is this democracy, keeping your people behind a fence?” one demonstrator yelled.
The protests come as Santokhi’s Cabinet implements cost-cutting measures ordered by the International Monetary Fund as it phases out subsidies on electricity, water and fuel. The current inflation rate is 58%, and increases in cost-of-living expenses are angering many.
There is no prospect of sudden relief given that Suriname has not received any money from the IMF for about a year because the government has not met the targets imposed. The IMF agreed to loan Suriname $690 million in December 2021, but only $100 million so far has been released.