Suriname's main opposition leader Chan Santokhi on Tuesday predicted victory for his Progressive Reform Party (VHP) in the country's elections after 46 percent of the votes had been counted.

Early unofficial results in the tiny South American country showed that President Desi Bouterse, who was recently convicted of murder, could be ousted from office.

"We will become the largest party in Suriname," said Santokhi, as supporters danced, sang and hailed their leader as the next president as they watched results trickle in on a large television screen at party headquarters.

The VHP dropped previous alliances to run in Monday's election on its own.

"We have worked hard the past five years," Santokhi said.

Bouterse, 74, a former military dictator turned politician, has dominated the country for four decades, but polls had forecast his National Democratic Party (NDP) was likely to lose its majority in the 51-member parliament which elects the president.

The NDP made no comment to the media early Tuesday.

Chan Santokhi, the main oppostion candidate vying for the presidency in Suriname, has predicted victory
Chan Santokhi, the main oppostion candidate vying for the presidency in Suriname, has predicted victory AFP / Louis ALFAISIE

Authorities lifted a partial coronavirus lockdown for election day and voters lined up at 1.5-meter (five-foot) intervals before the polls opened.

Officials dabbed blue ink on the voters' fingers with an ear swab rather than letting them dip their fingers in an ink pot.

A mobile polling station was also set up at the Zorghotel in the capital Paramaribo for 187 people in coronavirus quarantine.

Bouterse was last year sentenced to 20 years in prison by a military court for ordering executions during a previous military dictatorship.

He first took power in a 1980 coup and in 1982 allegedly rounded up and executed 15 political opponents, including lawyers, journalists and businessmen.

The incident, known as the "December killings," was investigated by Santokhi.

Bouterse appealed his conviction and the case was postponed until June due to the pandemic.

Just over 380,000 people were eligible to vote in the Dutch-speaking and ethnically-diverse nation of 600,000 people.