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Dominican Republic - Politics

The Dominican Republic has had a tragic history particularly inimical to the development of democratic politics. This fact is evident in the country's Spanish colonial experience. which was followed in the nineteenth century by foreign invasion and occupation by neighboring Haiti, a brief reoccupation by Spain, numerous civil wars, and economic ruin. These factors inhibited the possibility of national integration or the construction of a viable central state. As a result, the country experienced considerable political instability even as all early efforts to extend liberal rule in the country failed.

Since 1996, the Dominican electoral process has been seen as generally free and fair. The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully through periodic elections. The Dominican Republic is a constitutional democracy, and the President and all members of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies are elected freely every 4 years by secret ballot. There is universal adult suffrage; however, active duty police and military personnel may not vote. In practice, voting is limited to those persons who can show a national identity document, which requires that their births have been registered properly by their parents.

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 were held simultaneously every 4 years in years evenly divisible by four.

Following independence from Haiti in 1844, the country was characterized by instability for almost a century. Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina took power in 1930 and ruled in repressive authoritarian fashion until his assassination in 1961. There was a brief civil war in 1965 between liberal Constitutionalists — supporters of 1963 constitution promulgated during shortlived presidency of Juan Bosch Gaviho — and conservative Loyalist military factions.

Subsequent elections brought Trujillo protege Joaquin Balaguer Ricardo to presidency, an office he held for twelve years. Balaguer's attempt to nullify 1978 elections thwarted by pressure from Washington, allowing Silvestre Antonio Guzman Fernandez of social democratic Dominican Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Dominicano — PRD) to assume nation's leadership. The PRD also won 1982 elections with lawyer Salvador Jorge Blanco as its standard bearer.

Both PRD governments were plagued by economic difficulties that forced them to institute austerity measures instead of social reforms they initially advocated. Declining popularity of Jorge Blanco government contributed to Balaguer's election for a fourth term beginning in 1986.

Balaguer retained power through increasingly conflictual and questioned elections in 1990 and 1994; he agreed to shorten his term in 1994 to two years and accept constitutional reforms including no immediate reelection. In June 1996, Leonel Fernández Reyna of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) was elected to a 4-year term as president. Fernández's political agenda was one of economic and judicial reform. He helped enhance Dominican participation in hemispheric affairs, such as the OAS and the follow up to the Miami Summit.

Newspapers are independent and diverse; however, they are subject to government pressure because advertising revenues are not allowed, and imported newsprint is taxed. Nationwide, there are 10 daily newspapers. Seven are published in the morning, and three are published in the afternoon. These newspapers include the Listin Diario, La Noticia, El Caribe, El Nuevo Diario, El Siglo, Hoy, La Nacion, El Nacional, Ultima Hora, and Santo Domingo News, which is published in English. Touring is a multilingual newspaper with articles and advertisements in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.

The May 2010 elections were held for 183 seats in the Chamber of Deputies (up from 178) and 32 seats in the Senate. In accordance with transitional measures in the 2010 Constitution, seven members representing Dominicans abroad were elected in May 2012. The number of members in the Chamber of Deputies has thus increased from 183 to 190. The 2010 Constitution prohibited consecutive presidential terms. On 12 June 2015, the National Revisory Assembly, composing senators and deputies and tasked with reviewing amendments to the Constitution, adopted constitutional amendments to allow consecutive re-election for the presidency, as was the case before 2010.

On 15 May 2016 President Danilo Medina, elected in 2012, led the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) and its allies to a fourth consecutive victory in the 190-member Chamber of Deputies and the 32-member Senate. The Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), led by Mr. Andrés Bautista García, came second. The PRM was formed in 2014 by members expelled from the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), which was the second largest party in the 2010 elections. In the presidential elections, the incumbent President defeated Mr. Luis Abinader (PRM). During the election campaign, the major parties focused on measures to counter crime and address illegal immigration.

Thousands of protesters in the Dominican Republic filled the streets 15 July 2017, demanding an end to impunity and slamming the state’s decision to honor Odebrecht construction agreements after widespread corruption was revealed in the Caribbean country. People came from all regions of the island to Sunday’s march in the capital, which is being called “the mother of all marches” due to its overwhelming numbers and support within the Dominican Republic, as well as internationally. Indignant crowds of protesters have hit the streets repeatedly since news of the corruption broke that six of the 14 defendants of corruption cases left their pre-trial detention in Najayo prison 08 July 2017 after paying the bond imposed by the court. Green Marches have pushed for the company to be removed from the country and for investigations into each of the accused and for punishments to be given out accordingly.

Mass marches against government corruption and impunity took place in the Dominican Republic capital of Santo Domingo on 12 August 2018 demanding justice for the more than a dozen state officials involved in the 2017 Odebrecht case. Named the ‘Green March’ and ‘March of the Million’ nearly that many people dressed in green t-shirts demonstrated through the streets of Santo Domingo on Sunday. They are demanding that justice is brought against the dozen or more current and past state officials accused of accepting at least US$ 92 million in bribes from Odebrecht between 2001 and 2014. Anti-corruption activist Franiel Genao told TeleSUR, "we are tired of political thieves and criminals stealing our money that should be invested in public policies, education, health, housing, decent employment. That’s why we’re protesting," Genao said. This was the second Dominican Green March; the first one took place on January 22, 2017, shortly after the Latin American-wide Odebrecht corruption scandal was revealed.

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Page last modified: 16-08-2018 15:27:31 ZULU