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Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Dominican Republic votes in elections postponed for viruses

Dominican Republic voters, 5 July 2020

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Reuters

Caption of the image

Social distancing measures and other hygiene measures are in place for voting

People in the Dominican Republic voted for a new president, in a poll overshadowed by the coronavirus crisis.

The elections, which have been postponed since May due to the outbreak of the country, could end the 16 years in power of the Dominican Liberation Party.

Opinion polls suggest that Luis Abinader of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) opposition is likely to win – after recovering from Covid-19.

Dominicans will also choose members of both houses of parliament.

The incumbent President Danilo Medina cannot stand for re-election, having served two consecutive terms since 2012.

If no candidate wins more than 50% of the votes in Sunday’s first round, a playoff will be held.

Who are the best presidential candidates?

Opinion polls consistently put Luis Abinader ahead of all the other candidates.

 President of the Dominican opposition for the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) Luis Abinader

AFP

Luis AbinaderSource: BBC Monitoring

Abinader, whose family is of Lebanese origin, is an educated economist in the United States.

He is executive chairman of Grupo Abicor, a company owned by his family that manages major tourism projects in the Dominican Republic.

He functioned as president in 2016 and made it to the second round, but lost to Mr Medina, who beat him by almost 27 percentage points.

Abinader and his wife announced on June 11 that they had tested positive for the coronavirus and that he had to temporarily stop the campaign while he was recovering.

The Dominican Republic is one of the hardest hit countries in the Caribbean, with over 35,000 confirmed cases and over 775 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Abinader rose forward in opinion polls after a split in the ruling party.

President Medina, in power since 2012, gave his support to the party candidate Gonzalo Castillo, a former minister of public works.

 Gonzalo Castillo speaks during a press conference in 2017

Getty

Gonzalo CastilloSource: BBC Monitoring

Castillo is a wealthy businessman who has founded several companies over the years, including the airline Helidosa and the air ambulance service Aeroambulancia.

But some supporters of the Dominican Liberation Party may change allegiance to former president Leonel Fernández.

Fernández, who was president from 1996 to 2000 and again from 2004 to 2012, decided to run for the Popular Force Party, which he has led since leaving the Dominican Liberation Party.

Leonel Fernandez speaks at a press conference

Getty

Leonel FernándezSource: BBC Monitoring

He studied law in the Dominican Republic, but spent most of his youth in New York. He worked as a lawyer, university professor and author.

Opinion polls put him in third place behind Abinader and Castillo.

However, pollsters acknowledged that with elections taking place in unprecedented circumstances amid the continuing pandemic, it was difficult to predict how voters would react on that day.

All the candidates had to drastically cut their campaigns because of the virus, but the president of the central electoral council assured voters that polling stations had received hygiene kits and that the nation was “ready” for the elections.

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