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Dominican Republic holds presidential elections with Abinader as the main favorite

The polls give him victory by an absolute majority, followed far by former president Leonel Fernández

The situation in Haiti, the insecurity crisis and economic inequality, at the center of the electoral debate

The population of the Dominican Republic is called to the polls this Sunday to participate in presidential elections in which the current head of state, Luis Abinader, emerges as the main favorite to win, achieving a second term at the head of the nation. Caribbean

The country’s main polls give the president a comfortable victory, in most cases with more than 60 percent of the votes. In this hypothetical scenario, Abinader would achieve re-election without the need to hold a second round, scheduled for the end of June.

The Dominican president, 56 years old and a candidate for the centrist Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) that he founded, seeks in these elections to establish his economic policies and establish himself as an important regional actor, marked by his forceful speech against insecurity and the situation in neighboring Haiti.

After Abinader, the polls place the prominent Leonel Fernández, who already held the Dominican Presidency between 1996 and 2000, and later from 2004 to 2012. The former president, 70 years old, is running under the acronym of the progressive People’s Force Party (FP) and has attacked the president’s economic policies.

In third place and with just over ten percent of the votes, the demographic studies place Abel Martínez, a 52-year-old lawyer who is running for the lists of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), which in the past elevated Fernández. . Martínez was a prosecutor in Santiago and in 2016 he was promoted to Mayor of the city.

Along with these three candidates, the list of presidential candidates is completed by six other names, among which the former Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas stands out, who is running for the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), one of the main political parties in the country.

In addition to choosing who will be their president for the next four years, the 8.1 million Dominicans called to the polls must elect the 32 senators and 190 deputies that make up the Congress of the Republic. In addition, the Dominican Republic will renew its 20 representatives in the Central American Parliament (Parlacen)

Throughout the electoral campaign, all the candidates, but especially the three who lead the polls, have focused their speech on the situation in Haiti, a country with which the Dominican Republic shares almost 400 kilometers of border and which is immersed in a panorama of instability for years.

After the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021, Haiti entered a loop of insecurity due to the rise of criminal gangs. This situation reached its peak at the end of February, when the country’s armed groups took up arms and threatened to take power.

The social, political and economic crisis in Haiti, which has also suffered several natural disasters in recent years, has caused the Haitian population to try to cross the border into the Dominican Republic in search of better opportunities. The Dominican Government confirmed in 2023 the deportation of more than 250,000 Haitians.

In addition to all this, the Dominican Republic and Haiti have been involved in a dispute since September last year over the Masacre River, which delimits part of their common border. The authorities of Port-au-Prince launched the diversion of part of the river’s flow, causing unrest in Santo Domingo.

President Abinader denounced that the events violated the Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Arbitration signed decades ago by both nations, although from Haiti they defended their “full right” to extract water from the river. Santo Domingo ended up decreeing the closure of the border and the construction of a wall to prevent the entry of migrants.

Despite the controversy in President Abinader’s way of proceeding, this immigration policy has received the support of the main candidates for the Presidency, who consider that the situation in Haiti is one of the main conflicts to face.

Beyond the crisis of migrants from Haiti, another of the key issues that most affect the Dominican population are crime data and citizen insecurity. According to statistical data from the Government of the Dominican Republic itself, at the end of last year, more than 66 percent of the population considered crime the main problem at the national level.

According to that data, almost 30 percent of Dominicans feel “very afraid” of crime in their neighborhood; while more than 64 percent of the population avoids going out at night for fear of crime and crime. In the case of women this figure rises to almost 70 percent.

Although crime figures decreased in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the previous year, the homicide rate has been increasing in the Dominican Republic until 2022, when more than 13 violent deaths were recorded per 100,000 inhabitants. Although in 2023 these figures were reduced, which is why Abinader has stuck out his chest, the rest of the candidates emphasize that it is a cause for concern.

Finally, the economic situation in the country is another of the aspects that have gained the most prominence throughout the electoral campaign. The national economy grew 2.5 percent in 2023, three tenths more than the Latin American average, however, the pending task of the Abinader government has been to guarantee a distribution of wealth among the population.

According to data from the Inter-American Development Bank, the income gap in the Dominican Republic reaches figures similar to those of the United States. Furthermore, precarious jobs and the high cost of living put a large part of the population in a precarious situation, although Abinader has taken advantage of the electoral debates to highlight his management.

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