Monday, September 7, 2015

Dominican Politics Explained - a little

Many of you have written to me asking what is going on in Dominican politics so here we go, I will try and explain as best I can.

We have to start with a little bit of a history lesson but I will start in the 1990’s or we would be here all day. Since that date, politics in the country has basically been dominated by two main parties which are the PLD (Dominican Liberation Party which uses the colour purple)

and the PRD (Dominican Revolutionary Party which is white).

The third largest party is the PRSC (The Reformist Social Christian Party which is red).

If you support the PLD you are known as a pe-eledista, with the PRD a pe-erredista and the PRSC a reformista.

So back in 1996 Leonel Fernandez of the PLD was elected president and at that time the Constitution would not let him run for more than one four year term in office at a time, so in 2000, another PLD chap, Danilo Medina was the PLD candidate to become president.

Leonel Fernandez

Danilo Medina

However, Danilo was beaten by Hipólito Mejía Domínguez of the PRD and Hippo, as he was known, fancied being president for another four years, so naturally he then changed the Constitution to allow him to run again in 2004. However his cunning plan backfired as  he was beaten and Leonel Fernandez came back as president again

Hipolito Mejia

Of course since the Constitution had been changed,to enable presidents to serve two consecutive terms, Leonel could now stand again in 2008 and once again he won, this time against Miguel Vargas Maldonado of the PRD who had beaten Hippo in the primaries.

Miguel Vargas

However, when it came to 2012 Leonel could not stand for a third consecutive term as the Constitution only allowed for two consecutive terms and no more ever, So he changed the Constitution yet again, as you do, back to only one term, but as many single terms as you like, which meant that although he could not stand in 2012, he could run again in 2016.

All clear so far?

So instead of him running in 2012 Danilo Medina came back as Presidential candidate and this time he beat Mejia and became president.

It was not particularly hard to beat Mejia as life under his first and only presidential term was difficult, the country ran out of gas, banks collapsed, there was rampant inflation, and he had a habit of saying totally inappropriate things. For example, he lost a large number of votes saying that women who worked as cleaners and housekeepers stole meat and salami from their employers and took it home with them to feed their husbands.

Having said that, although Fernandez had impressed in his early terms with major economic growth and a better presence on the international stage, his 2008-2012 term was marred with a perception of major corruption and the poor becoming poorer.

No one expected great things of Medina who appeared to be a quiet and introspective man. But everyone was surprised as he gave 4% of the GDP to education for the first time and transformed the system to allow everyone to go to school from 9-4 rather than just mornings or afternoons. New schools were built around the country, teachers’ training was improved and their salaries rose dramatically. Nursery schools were built around the country as well as a continued programme of road improvements. He began to make surprise visits into the countryside every Sunday, visiting small farmers and providing them with low interest loans to improve production. Unemployment fell and tourism grew and his popularity ratings went through the roof.

Meanwhile Miguel Vargas and Hipolito Mejia didn’t like each other much and they and their supporters were always fighting, sometimes even physically, so in 2014, Hippo and a whole group of his followers split away from the PRD and formed a new party called the PRM – the Modern Revolutionary Party. It is also the white party.

So now we have the PLD, PRD, and the PRM plus a host of other little parties, the largest of the others being the PRSC.

Now the deal was, because under the latest version of the Constitution you could only have a single term as president at any one time, that Leonel Fernandez would come back yet again as PLD presidential candidate for 2016 in place of  Danilo Medina.  But there were two problems. Firstly the polls all said that Leonel might not win, and the presidential candidate of the new PRM party, Luis Abinader (who beat Hipolito Mejia in their presidential candidate primaries) may beat him and the second was the amazing popularity of current president Danilo Medina.

Luis Abinader

The country was clamouring for Danilo Medina to be the PLD presidential candidate again even though the Constitution forbade it. So we went through a while not knowing what would happen but eventually the Political Committee of the PLD had a vote and voted for the Constitution to be changed and Danilo to run again. Leonel was a tad naffed off to put in mildly as that was never the plan.

In order for the Constitution to be changed, there had to be a two thirds vote in favour in Congress and there were PLD members who supported Danilo, but not enough for two thirds. He not only would need the votes of those who supported Leonel but also votes from other parties. Now if he managed to change the Constitution then it was pretty clear he would then be voted in as President again so he was unlikely to be supported by the PRM who thought they had a shot against Leonel with Abinader.

So what happened? Well Leonel persuaded his followers to vote in favour but secured a deal to say that all his followers who held office, whether Senator or Deputy would be the PLD candidate for the 2016 elections and no one from the party could stand against them. But that would still not result in enough votes to change the Constitution so a deal was struck with Miguel Vargas and the PRD and they agreed to support Danilo and vote for constitutional change which would put a spoke in the wheel of the PRM and effectively dash the hopes of Abinader.  However, part of their deal was that where existing positions of Deputy, Senator and Mayor were held by PRD people, the PLD would not field a candidate against them.

So in our case. The case of Guayacanes. My Danilo, as opposed to the president, had been working for a year and was top of the polls, but the existing mayor, John Hazim, was PRD so it looked like Danilo would not be able to stand as there could only be one candidate from the PLD/PRD alliance.

John Hazim Current Mayor of Guayacanes

However, the party then said they would carry out opinion polls and if the potential candidates had much more chance of winning than Hazim, the existing PRD person in post, then the candidate would be the one with the highest chance of winning. So instead of there being a democratic vote among all party members and primaries to choose the candidates,  there will be a sample taking part in an opinion poll. Now they have done a few polls and apparently they were not done properly so they are about to do yet another one. In all of the previous ones my Danilo was well in the lead. But who knows - we wait to see what happens.

This is my Danilo's campaign poster. It says "Now yes, Danilo Mayor, Let no one decide for you." Little did he know when that was done a year ago that what would happen is that someone would decide for the electorate!

1 comment:

  1. Your Danilo is a phophet, that is all !! Even I learnt from your political wrap which is very intrincate and difficult to do ! I see you are getting offers of escorts services !! hehehe