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Dominican Republic - Elections - 2000s

Election - 2000 - Presidential

On May 16, 2000, Hipólito Mejía, the PRD candidate, was elected president in a free and fair election, soundly defeating PLD candidate Danilo Medina and former president Balaguer. Voters gave the PRD 49.87 percent of the vote, while the DLP received 24.94 percent, and the Social Christian Reform Party (PRSC) received 24.6 percent of the vote. The Constitution requires 50 percent plus one vote for a candidate to be elected to the presidency; however, if the second-place candidate concedes, as happened in May, the Central Electoral Board (JCE) may declare the first-place candidate the winner without a second round of elections.

Mejía championed the cause of free trade and Central American and Caribbean economic integration. The Dominican Republic signed a free trade agreement (CAFTA-DR) with the United States and five Central American countries in August 2004, in the last weeks of the Mejía administration. During the Mejía administration, the government sponsored and obtained anti-trafficking and anti-money-laundering legislation, sent troops to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom, and ratified the Article 98 agreement it had signed in 2002. Mejía faced mounting domestic problems as a deteriorating economy--caused in large part by the government's measures to deal with massive bank fraud--and constant power shortages plagued the latter part of his administration.

During the Mejía administration, the constitution was amended to permit an incumbent president to seek a second successive term, and Mejía ran for re-election.

Election - 2002 - Legislative

Up for election on 16 May 2002 were all 182 seats in the Congress, 32 in the Senate and 150 in the Chamber of Deputies, as well as 912 municipal positions, including the 125 mayoral posts. Some 23 parties and electoral coalitions were registered to contest the elections. During the electoral campaign, the candidates from the ruling Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) pointed to economic gains, as GDP had grown some 3.5 per cent from January to March 2002 after posting a negative growth in 2001. Opposition leaders focused their campaigns on the promise to combat unemployment (15.6 per cent of the active population) and widespread poverty.

At the end of the campaign, election-related violence broke out when supporters of the main opposition parties, the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) and the Reformist Social Christian Party (PRSC) clashed during a political rally in Yamasa, about 50 kilometres north of the capital, Santo Domingo. One man was killed and two other people, one of them a police officer, were injured.

The results showed that the ruling PRD had won 73 of the 150 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, 10 less than in the previous elections, and 29 of the 32 seats in the Senate. The Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) took 41 seats and 1 seat respectively, as against 36 and 2 for the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC).

Election - 2004 - Presidential

On May 16, 2004, Leonel Fernández was elected president, defeating Mejía 57.11% to 33.65%. Eduardo Estrella of the PRSC received 8.65% of the vote. The election was described as generally free and fair by the Organization of American States (OAS), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), as well as by the government electoral board and domestic NGOs.

The PRD continued to control the Senate, with 29 of 32 seats, and held 72 out of 150 seats in the Chamber of Deputies; the remaining seats in the Chamber of Deputies were divided between the PLD (42 seats) and the Social Christian Reform Party (PRSC) (36 seats).

Fernández took office on August 16, 2004, promising in his inaugural speech to promote fiscal austerity, to fight corruption and to support social concerns. Fernández said the Dominican Republic would support policies favoring international peace and security through multilateral mechanisms in conformity with the United Nations and the OAS. The Fernández administration worked closely with the United States on law enforcement and immigration and counter-terrorism matters.

Election - 2006 - Legislative

In 2006 elections, Fernández' PLD won 60% of seats in the House of Representatives and 22 of 32 Senate seats, as well as a plurality of mayoral seats. On May 16, 2008, President Fernández was reelected president with 53.8% of the vote. His new term ran until 2012. Congressional and municipal elections were held in May 2010.

On 20 May 2012, PLD candidate Danilo Medina won the presidency in an election that was generally free and orderly despite some irregularities. The Dominican Revolutionary Party won the most votes of any single party, but the PLD won the popular vote with the support of coalition parties. The OAS, which had an electoral observation mission present throughout the electoral process, noted several inadequacies in the legal framework that regulates the electoral process in important areas such as the use of public resources, campaign financing, and equitable access to the media.

The observation mission and other independent observers received complaints regarding the right of Dominicans of Haitian descent to vote. Due to restrictive civil registry policies enforced by the JCE, thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent were unable to obtain the citizenship documents required to participate in the elections. Observers witnessed the purchase of identity cards and votes by supporters of the various political parties on election day. Observers also reported the use of electoral propaganda in voting centers.

Election - 2008 - Presidential

On May 16, PLD candidate Leonel Fernandez won the presidency for a third term in an election described as generally free and fair by the Organization of American States, independent observers, and the government electoral board. Observers also described the 2006 congressional and municipal elections as generally free and fair.

Nearly six million voters were eligible to take part in the vote that would allow the Dominican president to seek immediate re-election for the first time since constitutional reforms approved in 2002. Fernandez promised that, if elected, he would continue a set of policies that have helped cut unemployment and expand social programs for many residents in the Caribbean nation. His main challenger was Miguel Vargas Maldonado, the owner of a construction company who criticized some of the president's policies, saying many Dominicans still do not have jobs and cannot afford rising prices for food and other essential goods. Five other candidates were competing in the race, which has been peaceful except for a clash that killed three people.

Fernandez has built a strong reputation with his economic policies, including his response to a major banking crisis in 2003. He was seen as someone who has really brought the Dominican Republic out of a crisis. That dids not mean there is not still a lot of problems in Dominican Republic, it is a very poor society. But he was seen as the more credible option.

The president also was credited with strengthening the tourism-dependent economy and building ties with multilateral lending banks which have provided key support for recent development programs. The president's critics, however, condemn some of his spending priorities, including the construction of a subway system in Santo Domingo whose budget swelled to more than $700 million.

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