Dominican Republic - Government
The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy with national powers divided among independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches. International observers have found that presidential and congressional elections since 1996 have been generally free and fair. The Dominican government is based on the French system of top-down rule and strong central authority. The president appoints the cabinet, executes laws passed by the legislative branch, and is commander in chief of the armed forces. Legislative power is exercised by a bicameral Congress -- the Senate (32 members) and the House of Representatives (190 members, as of 2016) - both numbers have changed over time. Both houses of the bicameral congress are elected every 4 years.
The Dominican Republic has a multi-party political system which until 2010 held national elections every 2 years (alternating between presidential elections and congressional/municipal elections). The 2010 constitution adjusted the terms of the 2010 elections on a one-time basis to 6 years, so that beginning in 2016 the presidential, congressional, and municipal elections will be held simultaneously every 4 years in years evenly divisible by four. Elections are supervised by a Central Elections Board (JCE) of 9 members chosen for a four-year term by the newly elected Senate. JCE decisions on electoral matters are final.
The constitution vests executive power in a president, who is elected by direct popular vote and whose term of office is 4 years. In practice the President can dominate public policy formulation and implementation. He can exercise his authority through the use of the veto, discretion to act by decree, and influence as the leader of his party. Traditionally, the President has predominant power in the Government, effectively making many important decisions by decree.
Although the formal powers of the president are fairly extensive, in fact they are more limited than in several other Latin American countries, given the absence of extensive decree powers, constitutional budgetary powers, a partial veto, and the ability to force referenda. The president has often been perceived as having near-dictatorial powers because of the willingness of some incumbents, particularly Balaguer, to abuse the powers of their office in the absence of effective checks from the legislature or the judiciary. In doing so, such incumbents built upon historical patterns of patrimonialism and strong-man rule that had gained a degree of support in society.
The president and vice president run for office on the same ticket and are elected by direct vote for 4-year terms. The constitution requires that presidential candidates be Dominican citizens by birth or origin, at least 30 years-old, and in possession of all political and civil rights. A candidate cannot have been a member of the military or the police for at least 1 year prior to election.
Vice presidential candidates must meet the same qualifications as presidential candidates. The vice president may assume the office of president when the chief executive is ill, outside the country, or otherwise unable to perform his duties and serve until the next scheduled election.
The president of the republic heads public administration and commands all armed forces of the republic, as well as the police corps. The president and the vice president of the republic swear the oath of office on 16 August after their election.
The legislative branch is run by the Congress of the Republic. It is composed of a senate and a chamber of deputies; the senators and deputies are elected by direct vote. One senator is elected from each of the country’s provinces and from the national district of Santo Domingo.
The positions of senator and deputy are incompatible with any other function or post of the public administration. Deputies and senators must be Dominican citizens and be at least 25 years-old, with full civil and political rights. Additionally, they must have been residents of the province they wish to represent for at least 5 years.
The powers of the senate include electing the president and other members of the central electoral board and their substitutes; electing the members of the chamber of accounts; and approving or rejecting the appointments of diplomatic officials deriving from the executive branch.
The judicial branch consists of the supreme court of justice and other courts of the judicial order created by the constitution and the laws. This branch is endowed with administrative and budgetary autonomy.
The supreme court of justice is headquartered in Santo Domingo. Supreme court justices must be Dominican citizens by birth or parentage, at least 35 years-old and have full political and civil rights. They are required to have law degrees and to have practiced law or held judicial office for at least 12 years.
Under the constitutional reforms negotiated after the 1994 elections, the 16-member Supreme Court of Justice is appointed by a National Judicial Council, which is comprised of the president, the leaders of both houses of Congress, the president of the Supreme Court, and an opposition or non-governing-party member. One other Supreme Court Justice acts as secretary of the Council, a non-voting position. The Supreme Court has sole authority over managing the court system and in hearing actions against the president, designated members of his cabinet, and members of Congress when the legislature is in session.
The Supreme Court hears appeals from lower courts and chooses members of lower courts. Each of the 31 provinces is headed by a presidentially appointed governor. Mayors and municipal councils to administer the 124 municipal districts and the National District (Santo Domingo) are elected at the same time as congressional representatives.
The supreme court of justice presides over penal suits against the president and vice president of the republic; the senators, deputies, and judges of the Supreme Court of Justice; the secretaries and undersecretaries of state; motions of abrogation; and suits whose hearings in first circuit are incumbent on the courts of appeal. In accordance with the law of judicial career, the court also elects judges of the courts of appeal, the land court, the courts of first circuit, the grand jury, and any other courts of the judicial order. Local justices cover 72 municipalities and 18 municipal districts. Each province acts as a judicial district.
The country is divided into 29 provinces, as well as the national district of Santo Domingo. The provinces, in turn, are further divided into 77 municipalities (or counties). Each municipality has its own council. The size of the councils depends on the size of the municipality, but each is required to have at least five members.
The president appoints a governor to be in charge of the government of each province. The governor must be a Dominican citizen, at least 25 years-old, and in full possession of civil and political rights. Mayors and municipal councils elected to 4-year terms govern cities and the national district. Naturalized citizens can hold municipal office, provided they have lived in the community at least 10 years.
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