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Daily News - 21 May 2002

Spanish company chosen to build generators
President Hipolito Mejia announced in Barcelona, Spain that the Spanish firm Dragados S.A. plans to invest US$460 million in the construction of two power plants in the Dominican Republic. As reported in Hoy newspaper, Dragados S.A. has government approval to build a US$260 million dam in La Placeta, near San Jose de las Matas in the Cordillera Central mountain range. The other power project is a wind-powered plant that would be built in Puerto Plata at a cost of US$200 million with a capacity to generate 200 megawatts. 
President Mejia also met in Madrid with Luis Ramon Diaz, president of Union Fenosa, the company that controls most of the power distribution in the DR.

Government hiring more personnel
El Caribe newspaper reports that the government continues to hire new personnel despite President Mejia having announced a freeze on hiring on several occasions. 
The Central Bank’s 2002 first quarter report says the government hired 9,656 new employees from January to 30 March. This includes the central government’s hiring of 8,303 people and decentralized government organizations hiring 1,353 new staff. 
The government had announced a reduction in its payroll expenditures and said that the number of employees getting two or more government paychecks would be reduced. 
The government has been criticized for using the increased revenues from tax reform in January 2001 to hire new personnel rather than investing in public works. The government resorts to borrowing to fund its construction projects. 
The Central Bank reports that in March 2000 (during the Fernandez government), 257,432 people were on the government payroll. By 31 December 2001, the government had 287,727 employees and by March 2002, the number had increased to 296,030. 
The newspaper says that if this pace is maintained, the government will have 321,385 employees by December 2002. Studies have shown that the government could be more efficient with a third of its present employees.

End of election, final bulletin released
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has released the 18th and final bulletin of the election. It says the PRD won 29 provinces, the PRSC won two (La Altagracia and San Pedro de Macoris) and the PLD won the National District. The bulletin also clears up the confusion over the vote count in Santiago. It shows that Santiago governor Victor Mendez, running on the PRD ticket, defeated former district attorney Francisco Dominguez Brito of the PLD by 1,653 votes, or 0.7%. Mendez received 34.92% of the vote (83,245 votes), while Dominguez won 34.22% (81,592 votes). The PRSC candidate received 62,927 votes or 26.39%. 
Upon announcing the final count, JCE president Manuel Ramon Morel Cerda said the winners of the deputy seats nationwide could be announced tomorrow. 
He said that anyone not in agreement with the official results must challenge them at the appropriate municipal district office within the next two days. 
Meanwhile, the government has sent about 8,000 soldiers to the streets to clean up political campaign material over the next two weeks. 
For nationwide results, see http://www.jce.do/elecciones/elecciones2002/jce/

PRD wins 104 of 125 municipalities
The ruling PRD won 104 of the 125 municipalities in the Dominican Republic. The PRSC won 11 municipal governments, while PLD candidates took seven. The PRI was the only minority party that won a municipality, receiving a majority vote in three municipalities. 
The PRSC (Reformistas) will control the municipalities of Santiago, Higuey, Bayaguana, Quisqueya, Partido, Nizao, Los Llanos, Ramon Santana, La Descubierta, Janico and Ramon Santana. 
The PLD will control the National District, Yamasa, Nigua, Juan de Herrera, Navarrete, Licey al Medio and La Romana. 

Public investment key to PRD sweep
As reported in the Listin Diario, Hernani Salazar, director of the Government’s Public Works Supervisory Office, said the PRD’s sweep in the congressional and municipal election was due to the Mejia government’s widespread public investment program. The government received US$500 million in sovereign bonds in October with most of the money spent while the electoral campaign was at its peak. According to the report on the usage of the bonds, the money was spent on public works ranging from highway completion to sidewalks across the country.

RD$37 million for new city governments
The government will build headquarters for the three new municipalities created by Congress as part of the Province of Santo Domingo. The government needs places to lodge the municipal governments of Santo Domingo Norte, Santo Domingo Oeste and Santo Domingo Este. The new municipal seats are expected to cost RD$37 million. 
In the meantime, the municipality of Santo Domingo Este, the largest that resulted from the splitting of the National District into four, will operate at the Club de Molinos Dominicanos, Avenida España. 

Tourism and free zone exports down
The Central Bank reports that farming, tourism and free zone export manufacturing activity declined during the first quarter of the year. Farming was down 7.8%, tourism 11.2%, and free zones 7.5%. The growth sectors were communications, up 29.3%, electricity, up 13.7%, construction 12.5%, and commerce 9.6%. 

Mayor-elect shares his plans
Santo Domingo’s mayor-elect Roberto Salcedo said the employees of the National District (Santo Domingo) municipality will have to be redistributed starting 16 August 2002 when he enters office. As a result of the congressional decision to split the National District into four, the Santo Domingo municipality will now oversee services for about one million people, down from about three million in the past. 
He also announced he plans to meet with representatives of the garbage collection companies to discuss starting a system to classify garbage and recyclable goods. He also committed to reducing visual and noise pollution and resolve problems such as the Diablo brook that runs through an impoverished area of the city. 
He also said he will travel to Spain, Venezuela, New York and Central America prior to taking over the mayoralty to seek funding for several projects on his agenda. 
He said he would incorporate a consulting board made up of members of city neighborhood groups, businessmen and sports leagues. 
He said he seeks the best of relations with the government and has requested an appointment with President Mejia upon his return from Europe. 
He also announced he has plans to continue to appear on his 9 x 9 Robert Sunday variety show on Colorvision, Channel 9.

Leonel Fernandez on PLD showing
Former President Leonel Fernandez says the PLD has become the number two political force in the country. He said the party obtained 29% of the vote, compared to 42% for the PRD and 24% for the PRSC. He said that for the first time the PLD showed strength in important electoral seats, such as the National District and the Santiago. 

Political errors of the PLD?
Political analyst Alejandro Herrera writes in Hoy newspaper today about the mistakes that could have led to the PLD’s second consecutive congressional electoral defeat. 
He says one error was that the party chose to challenge President Hipolito Mejia, basing its campaign on the slogan: “More PLD, more decency, more credibility”, which were not concrete proposals. 
He also points out that former President Leonel Fernandez changed his usual polished language to incorporate popular terms that are more the style of President Mejia than his own. The analyst says Dominicans perceived that Fernandez was imitating Mejia, while pointing out that the highest-rated Dominican politicians in history (Bosch, Balaguer, Peña Gomez and Hipolito) have been themselves. 
He also mentioned the errors that occurred on election day. The third was when the PLD delegate to the JCE, Dr. Cesar Pina Toribio, criticized the organization of the elections denouncing fraud shortly before people went to vote. Herrera says that this could have discouraged many voters from bothering to vote.

Voter abstention from 1998 to 2002 
The Central Electoral Board says voter abstention nationwide was 47.76%. This is slightly higher than the rate in the 1998 congressional election when it was 47.03% according to an analysis in El Caribe newspaper. Presidential election abstention is usually much lower -- 24% in the last election. 
Abstention was higher in the urban centers with the highest rate observed in the new Province of Santo Domingo, where 61% of the population did not vote. 
Other large urban areas with higher than average abstention were: La Romana (57.39%), National District (56.6%), San Pedro de Macoris (55.26%), Santiago 52.28% and Peravia (49.34%). 
Areas with the lowest abstention were the poorer provinces of Independencia (24%), Elias Piña (26.25%), Pedernales (28.6%), Dajabon (31%), Santiago Rodriguez (31%) and Monte Cristi (32.62%). Abstention markedly declined in the impoverished eastern province of El Seibo, where 8.46% more people went to vote in 2002 than in the congressional and municipal election of 1998. 
It is interesting to note that the PRD won with more than 50% in Pedernales, Bahoruco, Dajabon and El Seibo provinces. 
Provinces where abstention increased the most from the 1998 election to the 2002 election were: La Vega (6%), Duarte (3%), and Monseñor Nouel (2.8%). These provinces have large middle-class urban centers. 
El Caribe’s editorial concludes that the more educated the citizen, the less interested he is in voting. The poor and less educated vote more. The newspaper speculates that the better educated may have become cynical, or perhaps the less educated are acting out of despair, accepting bribes or simply because they are more patriotic. 
El Caribe concludes that the good news is that since more of the poor vote, this should motivate the politicians to direct their programs and actions towards the poor. 
Other observers pointed out that the political parties targeted their advertising to the poor with little being offered to the middle class. This was evident in the television spots that focused on low-income Dominicans. The voter turn out could indicate that the politicians did not reach the middle class. This primarily affected the PLD, which is said to have more of a following in the middle and upper classes.

The decline of politics
Anibal de Castro, editor of the Diario Libre newspaper, writes today on the decline of the influence of political parties. “The political parties are each day more alike,” he writes. “The three leading parties have been in power, and the results show the same methods and the same vices.” 
In his opinion, the problem with Dominican politics is not so much that there is an ideological anemia, but rather an ethical void. Pragmatism has become the justification for the objectives sought. “To be a party militant is to seek to be included in the budget, to do business or have social mobility,” he writes. The concept of “what’s in it for me” is firmly engrained and this has impoverished Dominican society and politics. 
He comments that unfortunately, nothing indicates there will be a significant change. “Most Dominicans are too concerned with surviving in these difficult economic and social times,” he writes, commenting that the results of last week’s election are proof of this.

Dominicans learned new voting system
The Central Electoral Board introduced the preferential vote during this election. It meant that voters could vote for a specific deputy to represent their electoral district. Some observers said this would increased the number of annulled votes as the system was too complicated. 
The final numbers showed differently. The difference between annulled votes in 1998 (4.3%) and those in 2002 (5.2%) with the new system was less than 1%. 
El Caribe newspaper observes that this shows Dominicans are more intelligent than their politicians believe them to be. 
 
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