Ruling party candidate wins

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, May 21, CMC – A 60-year-old economist, the ruling party’s candidate, was declared the winner of Sunday’s presidential election in this Spanish-speaking nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, election officials said early Monday.

With more than 60 per cent of the votes counted, the Central Election Board (JCE) said the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (DLP) candidate, Danilo Medina, won 51.4 per cent of the vote against 46.7 per cent for the opposition Dominican Revolutionary Party’s (PRD) 71-year-old candidate, Hipolito Mejia.

More than six million voters were eligible to cast their ballots in this election, including some 300,000 Dominicans living overseas, mostly in the United States, who were allowed to cast absentee ballots for the first time.

Medina  has had a significant role in making economic policy within the administration of outgoing President Leonel Fernandez, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

Medina has promised to boost growth in an economy based on tourism and manufacturing while Mejia has vowed to fight corruption and boost jobs.

His main challenger in the six-way race, former president Mejia who had defeated him in 2000, campaigned under the slogan, “Here’s Daddy” (“Llego Papa”), challenging Medina whom he beat in the 2000 presidential election.

But overshadowing the campaign have been concerns about crime, joblessness and rising food and fuel prices.

But during his four-year term, Mejia presided over one of the DR’s worst economic crises. As if to presage global events four years later, the crisis was triggered when three major commercial banks went bust, leading to high inflation, a high country risk rating, a currency devaluation and deepening poverty.

Estimates put about one-third of the DR’s ten million people below the poverty line.

A strong undercurrent of tensions between poorer mostly black, French Creole-speaking neighbour Haiti and the largely mixed-race Dominican Republic ran through campaign rhetoric and many voters’ minds.

Dominicans blame crime, which has doubled in the last decade, and unemployment on Haitians who come over the border to escape grinding poverty and the impact of the 2010 earthquake. Many Dominicans display open racial and ethnic hostility towards Haitians.

While not a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), unlike Haiti, the DR and CARICOM are linked as the CARIFORUM group of nations – former European colonies in an economic partnership agreement with the European Union.