Dominican Republic President on Course for Reelection

Dominican Republic President on Course for ReelectionDominican Republic President on Course for Reelection

Early returns have given presidential incumbent Danilo Medina a strong lead in the Dominican Republic.

The election is seen as a referendum on a ruling party that has won four of the last five votes. Initial results on Sunday night showed center-left President Medina with 61% of the vote.

His nearest rival—the businessman and social democrat Luis Abinader of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM)—held between 29% and 35%. The 48-year-old Abinader ran for vice president in 2012 but has never held elected office, AP reported.

The remaining six candidates, including the first two women running for the presidency in a Dominican election, held a combined 4% of votes, according to early polls.

Also being elected are 32 senators and 190 lower house deputies and local officials, with candidates from 26 parties participating.

If the voting proportions remain consistent nationwide, Medina will surpass the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff election on June 26. Final results are expected on Monday.

Electoral authorities said nearly 7 million people were expected to have voted, including thousands around the world and in the United States, mostly in large Dominican enclaves in New York and Florida.

Medina, an economist, enjoyed consistently high popularity ratings in the last few months of his latest four-year term. He reportedly had an 89% approval rating, according to a survey by Mexican consultancy firm Mitofsky, making him the most popular leader in Latin America. Medina’s Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) has been in power for 12 years in the Spanish-speaking country of 10.4 million people, which shares the island of Hispaniola with its neighbor, Haiti.

After his reelection in 2012, Medina said his term would be limited to one four-year stint. Last year, however, he passed a reform that allowed him to run for reelection.

“I won’t be satisfied until progress reaches everyone, when growth means a table full of food for everyone,” the 64-year old said at a rally to close his campaign on Thursday.

Medina has benefited from an economy that grew 7% in 2015, better than any other country in Latin America or the Caribbean, and increased funding for social programs that have strong popular support.

  Corruption Allegations

During the campaign, Abinader focused on allegations of corruption surrounding Medina, as well as promises to cut social spending and reduce crime. He also accused Medina of misuse of electoral funds.

Medina’s campaign chief, Joao Santana, returned to Brazil in February to face charges that the Brazilian engineering conglomerate Grupo Odebrecht had paid him funds taken from Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras in offshore accounts to finance the 2014 election campaign of suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Medina has not spoken publicly about the Petrobras affair and Santana has called the allegations against him “baseless”.