20 May 2024, 10:47

Dominican Republic President Abinader re-elected to 2nd term

SANTO DOMINGO, May 20, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Dominican Republic President Luis
Abinader was re-elected Sunday for another four-year term, an endorsement of
his handling of the economy and tough policies toward migration from Haiti.

The two nations share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, but the much more
prosperous Dominican Republic stands in stark contrast to its poverty and
gang violence-plagued neighbor.

The volatility across the border has been a key issue in the election
campaign, but Abinader, 56, also boasted success in managing the economy and
the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the number of ballots counted passed 21 percent, his main rival, former
president Leonel Fernandez, conceded defeat and congratulated Abinader.

"I am and will be the president of all Dominicans," Abinader said in a speech
before hundreds of supporters at his campaign headquarters in the capital
Santo Domingo.

"The people have expressed themselves clearly... I accept the trust I have
received and the obligation not to disappoint," Abinader said shortly after
his two top rivals, including Fernandez, threw in the towel.

"I will not fail them," he told supporters, who chanted "Four more years!
Four more years!"

With 25 percent of votes counted, Abinader was ahead with more than 59
percent, fully 30 points clear of Fernandez, with 27 percent. A win with more
than 50 percent of the vote is required to avoid a runoff.

Abel Martinez was in third with 10.7 percent, while the other six candidates
barely topped three percent of the total.

- 'Things can improve' -

Abinader is a US-trained economist of Lebanese descent and multi-millionaire
heir of a family tourism and construction empire.

He was elected during the Covid pandemic in 2020 on promises of restoring
trust in the government after several high-profile corruption scandals
embroiling public officials in the top tourist destination.

Once in office, he began building a 164-kilometer (102-mile) concrete wall
along the border with Haiti to keep out undocumented migrants.

He had more than 250,000 migrants deported in 2023.

The president enjoys domestic approval ratings of around 70 percent -- more
than when he was elected -- despite international pressure for the Dominican
Republic to welcome more refugees.

The migration issue has not been a divisive one in the election, with both
Fernandez and Abinader backing the deportation of Haitian migrants and
increased border security.

Since he came to power, Abinader has increased immigration raids and
multiplied deportations, built a wall on part of the border, and closed
migration from Haiti.

Voter Javier Taveras, 38, told AFP on election day that he "likes the current
position of maintaining sovereignty," though not "the abuse against our
Haitian brothers."

As for the border wall, "I don't know how effective it is," he said.

A Gallup poll showed 47.5 percent of Dominicans believe the country was "on
the right path" and 40 percent believed the economy is doing better than

Maria Ramona Antonio, a 74-year-old dentist, said she believes Abinader has
done well and voted for his re-election.

"Look how tourism is going, which is the best source of work for us... the
roads built, those people in need who now have health insurance," she told
AFP in Santo Domingo.

Fernandez had accused the government of manipulating growth data. The World
Bank reports that the Dominican economy grew 2.5 percent in 2023.

"I hope for economic stability from the next government," said voter Taveras.

Opinion polls also showed Abinader's Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) bound
for a majority in Congress. Experts agree that the party will fare well in
elections for the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.

The party won 120 of 150 mayoral posts in February municipal elections,
considered a litmus test ahead of the general vote.

"We are sweeping, we are on top," voter Joney Dotel, a 38-year-old
psychologist, said at the PRM headquarters.

"The country continues with change, and it is in favor of democracy."

Abinader rose to power on an anti-corruption platform. His minister of public
works, Deligne Ascencion assured on Sunday that the elections were clean,
despite complaints from opposition camps of vote-buying.

The country's electoral commission reported it has not received any formal
complaint of such irregularities.



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