Mar 3rd, 2020, 10:38 PM

Outraged Voters in the Dominican Republic

By Sofia Quintero
Flying the Dominican flag. Image Credit: Unsplash / Asael Peña
Dominicans gathered to protest for democracy and voting rights after municipal elections were suspended this past February.

On February 16, the Dominican Republic was scheduled to hold nationwide municipal elections in what should have been a routine democratic process. Once the ballots opened, citizens across the country began casting their votes; at first, everything seemed to be running smoothly. However, just four hours in, the elections were suddenly canceled. According to the government, there were "inconsistencies in the functioning of voting machines," which led to the postponement of elections to March 15. 

Less than a couple of hours later, thousands of Dominicans were in the streets protesting, calling out the government for corruption and anti-democratic behavior. Many nationals believe that the one month delay was done on purpose and was meant to increase the number of votes for the candidates belonging to the Dominican Liberation Party (Partido de la Liberación Dominicana or PLD). The PLD is the same party that has been governing the country since 2004. Its politicians maintain a majority in the Congress and have supported the winning presidential candidate for the past four elections.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The biggest anti-PLD protests were in the capital city of the country, Santo Domingo, during which millions stood out in front of Flag Square (Plaza de la Bandera) with Dominican flags. Other major cities, including Santiago de los Caballeros and San Francisco de Macoris, saw demonstrations as well. It did not take long for Dominicans all over the world to turn out and follow suit. By February 17, the peaceful protests had spread to major cities including Los Angeles, Paris, Prague, London, Madrid, Mexico City, Toronto, Chicago, Houston, Zurich and New York.

Like many other Latin American countries, the Dominican Republic has had its fair share of political and electoral corruption. The PLD has been caught more than once in questionable behavior. With scandals varying from trying to change electoral rules to challenging official voting results, their power has always been a sensitive topic on the island.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Even popular politicians are not spared from criticism when then public senses wrongdoing. The current president of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina of the PLD, has been in office since 2014. Although he is well-liked among the Dominican population, he tried to change the "constitution in 2019, which would allow him to seek a third four-year term." However, after the people went out to protest against this, he decided to retract his motion.

With the tension between the public and government in mind, what can we expect for the upcoming rescheduled municipal elections on March 15, and for the upcoming presidential election in May of 2020? The integrity and reliability of the PLD are definitely at stake, considering not only their history but also the sheer amount of Dominicans that will not remain silent until justice prevails. This could mean better odds for their biggest political rival, the Modern Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Moderno) and their candidate, Luis Abinader. As of now, Abinader is leading the polls, with an 28 point lead over PLD's candidate, Gonzalo Castillo.

Protests in the Dominican Republic and other corruption-stricken Latin American countries are giving the people the voice they so deserve. Hopefully, March 15 will become one step closer to the fair and just democracy Dominicans are fighting for. 

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