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President Danilo Medina reelected
Latinamerica Press
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President receives more than 60 percent of the votes in the first round

“The people have made themselves heard. This is a victory for the people,” said President Danilo Medina after learning of the early returns of the elections that took place on May 15 that gave him more than 60 percent of the vote according to preliminary official results announced by the Central Electoral Board.

Medina, the head of the ticket for the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD-Dominican Liberation Party) easily overcame businessman Luis Abinader, of the Partido Revolucionario Moderno (PRM-Modern Revolutionary Party), who received 35 percent of the vote; the other six candidates, among which are two women, had less than 3 percent of the vote together.

“Starting today we are heading back to work for all Dominicans, no matter the color of the flag”, the president said.

Besides electing a president and vice-president, the more than 6.7 million voters elected 32 senators and 190 deputies, 20 deputies to the Central America Parliament, 158 mayors and 234 municipal authorities.

According to projections, the PLD will have 24 senators and 112 deputies, a majority that will allow Medina to govern comfortably. Although the governing party won in the majority of municipalities, it lost in Santo Domingo, the capital, which is now in the hands of the PRM, ending 14 years of government by the PLD.

Medina will swear in for a new four-year term on Aug. 16. However, he will not be able to run again for the presidency or vice-presidency after the National Assembly reformed the Constitution in June 2015 to reestablish the presidential reelection to just one term in office.

Since the proclamation of the Constitution in 1844, it has been modified 39 times, particularly in what concerns the presidential reelection. The nonconsecutive reelection and the requirement that to win a presidential election it is necessary to get more than 50 percent of the valid votes was established after the electoral fraud of 1994, which allowed the reelection of Joaquín Balaguer for the umptheenth time (1960-62, 1966-70, 1970-74, 1974-78, 1986-90, 1990-94, 1994-96). Eight years later, then President Hipólito Mejía (2002-2004), of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD-Dominican Revolutionary Party) pushed for a constitutional reform to reinstate the consecutive reelection. Mejía ran for president in 2004, but he lost to Leonel Fernández (1996-2000, 2004-2008 and 2008-2012), of the PLD.

In 2010 a new constitutional reform determined that “the President of the Republic, who shall be elected every four years by direct vote, shall not be eligible to be elected for the following constitutional period.”

The most recent reform establishes that “the President of the Republic may opt for a second consecutive constitutional period and in which case he may never again be eligible to run for that post or that of vice-president of the Republic.”

Poverty and Haitian migration
One of the biggest challenges that Medina will have to face is the reduction of poverty that now reaches 35.5 percent according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), despite the fact that the Dominican Republic has one of the fastest growing economies in the region.

“Over the last two decades, the Dominican Republic (DR) have been standing out as one of the fastest economies in the Americas, with an average real GDP growth rate of 5.4% between 1992 and 2014,” as reported by the World Bank. “The DR remains the most rapid economy in the region in 2014 and 2015, with a GDP hovering at 7 percent. Recent growth has been driven by construction, manufacturing and tourism.”

According to specialists like Pedro Silverio, quoted by the press, “the efforts to reduce poverty have been less effective”, since the economic model has not created the basis for the generation of formal employment that allow the population to get out of poverty. Based on figures of the Central Bank, economist Miguel Ceara-Hatton claims that the current unemployment rate fluctuates at around 14 percent.

The issue of Haitian migration is another subject that Medina must resolve. In 2013, the Constitutional Tribunal (TC) decreed that the children of foreigners in irregular status, or “in-transit”, since 1929 do not have the right to obtain the Dominican citizenship, despite having been born in the Dominican Republic. This measure, which was harshly criticized by national and international organizations, affected half-a-million Haitian people who run the risk of being deported. According to Ceara-Hatton, 7 percent of the four million working population are Haitian.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) pointed out that the TC ruling “disproportionately affected persons already subject to many forms of discrimination, especially on the basis of the criteria of race, national origin, and/or the migratory situation of their parents or their poverty.” The IAHRC verified that “poverty disproportionately affects persons of Haitian descent, and this situation is connected with the obstacles they encounter in terms of access to statistics registration and identity papers. Their lack of papers or the fact that these papers have been withheld, destroyed, or are being investigated, has made these persons face obstacles in terms of education, health, decent employment, entering into contracts, getting married, among others.”

Medina’s government promoted the passing of Law 169-14, in effect since May 2014, which validated the birth records and nationality of persons born in Dominican territory between 1929 and 2007 and the creation of a registry of persons born in Dominican territory and who were never registered, making it possible for them to regularize their status and opt for the Dominican nationality.

The IACHR rejected completely that persons born in Dominican territory and who are entitled to the Dominican nationality were treated “as foreigners” and in order to obtain the Dominican nationality they have to go through the naturalization process.

“Tens of thousands of people and their descendants continue without having their nationality restored and hence without being effectively repaired for the arbitrary deprivation of nationality and statelessness in which they were left after the judgment,” the IACHR stated in a report published on Dec. 31, 2015.

The IACHR recommended to “adopt, within a reasonable period of time, the necessary measures to nullify any norm of any kind, whether constitutional, legal, regulatory, or administrative, as well as any practice, decision, or interpretation, that establishes or has as a result that the irregular status of foreign parents will cause the denial of Dominican nationality to persons born in the territory of the Dominican Republic.” —Latinamerica Press.

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