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Daily News - Friday, 16 May 2008

Live electoral commentary
DR1 will be sharing background on the Friday, 16 May presidential election with readers throughout Election Day. Coverage of the election throughout the day will be provided in the Government Forum. Readers are encouraged to participate, posting their observations of events on Election Day and into the election and after. A wrap-up on the election will be then provided in the Monday, 19 May news digest.
For updates, see www.dr1.com/forums/government/

Electoral facts & figures
A total of 5.7 million eligible voters, of a population of 9.7 million, and 154,797 are registered to vote abroad.
There are 12,754 voting stations in the DR, located at 4,005 voting precincts in 154 municipalities nationwide, and at 321 in consulates abroad.
Where the voters are located: 2,146,599 voters live in the north, for 37%; 1,839,811 voters live in the south central province of Santo Domingo and National District (city of Santo Domingo), for 32%; 995,225 voters live in the southwest of the country or 17%; 627,955 voters live in the east, or 11%; and 154,797 voters, or 3% live abroad.
Some 2.9 million women and 2.8 million men have registered to vote.

The provinces to watch
The vote count in 10 of the 31 provinces will decide the 16 May election. Santo Domingo (19.71%), National District (13.08%), Santiago (11.2%), San Cristobal (5.5%), La Vega (4.6%), Duarte (San Francisco de Macoris - 3.66%), Puerto Plata (3.54%), San Pedro de Macoris (3.06%), Espaillat (Moca - 2.79%), San Juan de la Maguana (2.76%) are the apples on the election tree that they all want to pick. With more than 5.5 million voters on the rolls, these provinces account for 70% of the total potential voters. Only four other provinces have as much as two percent of registered voters (La Romana, Azua, Monsignor Nouel and Peravia (Bani), and six provinces have between 1.5% and 1.9% of voters. In 2004, President Leonel Fernandez won in all those ten provinces.

Many don't bother to vote
Of the eligible voters in the presidential election in 2000, 24% did not go to vote. In 2004, 27% did not go to vote.
Economist Bernardo Vega writing in Clave speculates that this year the rate of abstention will increase because the vote will primarily be cast "for the least bad" of the candidates, that is with little enthusiasm.
In the DR, abstention is usually low because voting is a social event. With not much else to do for those who stay in their homes (given that most businesses close), voting is just the thing to do on the day. It is a time to see the same people who attend the neighborhood voting centers, which is motivation enough to get out of bed and go see who they will meet again. Another motivation is to check out the new systems in place and actually get to see the scanners that have generated so many headlines.

The candidates
Partido de la Liberacion Dominicana (PLD): President Leonel Fernandez, a lawyer, was elected in 2004 with 57% of the vote, the highest percentage vote count in the past 12 elections, since 1962. The runner up, the PRD, received 33.65% and the PRSC received 8.65%. The first time he ran for office was when he was picked by the late PLD founder, Juan Bosch to be his candidate for vice president. In 1996 he won in a second round, with the support of Joaquin Balaguer of the PRSC, versus the PRD. In 2004, he returned to power on the tail of the worst banking and economic crisis to affect the DR.
Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD): Businessman and engineer, 56-year old Miguel Vargas Maldonado was Minister of Public Works during the 2000-2004 Hipolito Mejia presidency. Prior to that he served as director of the Santo Domingo Drinking Water Corporation (CAASD) during the Salvador Jorge Blanco administration. He previously aspired to be the PRD candidate for mayor of Santo Domingo in the 1998 election.

Partido Reformista Social Cristiano (PRSC): Amable Aristy Castro is a former senator for La Altagracia province, who was elected senator on two further occasions and turned down the post to accept what he has deemed the more lucrative post of president of the Dominican Municipal League that used to manage all the country's municipal funds. He has been in that post for three terms. At the age of 59 he received a law degree from the Universidad de la Tercera Edad.

Partido Revolucionario Social Democrata (PRSD): 54-year old Eduardo Estrella is a civil engineer who seeks the presidency for the second time. In 2004 he ran for the PRSC and obtained 8.14% of the vote, or 312,493 votes. He resigned from the party after accusing Aristy Castro of widespread fraud in the party primary in 2007. He was senator for Santiago (1994-1998), Minister of Public Works (1991-1994) and director of the National Institute of Drinking Water & Sewage (INAPA).

Partido Alianza Popular (PAP): 57-year old Pedro de Jesus Candelier Tejada is a former military officer. He made headlines for the hard line and policy of authorizing the murder of criminals he was known for when he was chief of the Police. He has worked under both the PLD and PRD governments.

Movimiento Independencia, Unidad y Cambio (MIUCA): Guillermo Moreno made a name for himself as District Attorney in 1996 and 1997. He was removed from the post when he was investigating the case of fraud to the tune of over RD$90 million in the National Lottery. He has served as dean of the school of law at UNIBE university.

Partido Revolucionario Independiente (PRI): 46-year old lawyer Trajano Santana is the presidential candidate for this minority party. The party obtained 0.11% of the vote in the 2004 election.

Explaining the effect of clientilism
Sociologist Ramon Tejada Holguin explains in Clave newspaper that corruption scandals have had little effect on the voting intention of Dominicans "because most feel that the parties have similar levels of corruption, and thus when deciding who to vote for, other factors will prevail. The PRD dedicated a large part of its presidential campaign to denounce corruption scandals in the Fernandez government, but this had little effect on voting intentions, as revealed by the Noxa-Cies-Clave polls.
He examines the effects that clientelism, or political patronage, has on voters and finds that more than anything, the polls show an absence of leadership in the opposition parties. The lack of credible counterweight for the citizenry are factors that together with clientilism can explain the outcome of this election, he writes.
Tejada Holguin comments that the polls show that Fernandez should be able to turn in around 52% of the vote, while Miguel Vargas will attract around 37% and Amable Aristy (PRSC) should come through with around 9%.
He mentions that the most difficult moments of the campaign were when rising commodity and fuel prices pushed up local food prices. The government's response was to increase subsidies, picking up the difference, at least until after the election.
"The surveys show that the positive evaluation of the PLD and Leonel Fernandez is related to the perception that the opposition parties and candidates are worse options than re-election," he concludes.

The most recent polls
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner-Diario Libre: May. PLD 55%, PRD 37%, PRSC 6%.
Clave Noxa-Cies: May. PLD 54%, PRD 36%, PRSC 9%
Penn & Shoen: April. PLD 56%, PRD 37%, PRSC 5%
Gallup: April. PLD 51.7%, PRD 37.4%, PRSC 4%

Expatriate vote
In the 2004 presidential election, 52,440 Dominicans living overseas registered to vote and of these, 35,042 voted. President Leonel Fernandez received a majority of the votes cast, or 25,898 for 74%, then President Hipolito Mejia received 7,141 votes for 22% and Eduardo Estrella (PRSC) received 1,356 votes, or 3%.
Four years later, for the 2008 presidential election, the number of eligible voters had tripled to 154,797. Expatriate registered voters by country:
United States: 96,785
Spain: 31,354
Puerto Rico: 11,311
St. Martin: 2,984
Venezuela: 2,570
Italy: 2,347
Panama: 2,075
Switzerland: 1,964
Curacao: 1,369
Canada: 1,135
Holland: 903

Election rules
The sale of alcohol is banned 24 hours before the polls open and right until three hours after the end of voting, or 9pm. On Thursday, 15 May, the Electoral Military Police (PME) closed 70 businesses (mostly colmadones) that violated Art. 109 of the Electoral Law 275-97 that prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverage 24 hours before the election. There is no ban on consumption of alcohol, just on the sale. Thus it is customary for families and friends to gather at home for a drink.
Cell phone use, political campaigning and weapons are banned inside the voting precincts.
The polls are open in the DR from 6am on Friday, 16 May to 6pm. Voters need to queue in sex-segregated lines once entering the precinct.

The arbiters
The arbiters of the 2008 presidential elections for the Central Electoral Board (JCE) are:
Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman, Aura Celeste Fernandez, Eddy Olivares, Roberto Rosario, Jose Angel Aquino, Cesar Francisco Feliz Feliz, John Guiliani, Mariano Rodriguez and Leyda Pina. Of these, both Roberto Rosario and Aura Celeste Fernandez repeat as JCE judges.
For background on the judges (in Spanish), see: www.jce.do

Election No. 13
This is the 13th election to be held since the overthrow of the Trujillo dictatorship in 1961.
Three political parties have prevailed over the past 46 years - the PRD, PRSC and PLD (which was founded by PRD dissidents).
The per year official vote counts were:
1962: Juan Bosch (PRD). He won the election with a vote count of 628,044 votes versus 317,327 for his opponent Viriato Fiallo.
1966: Joaquin Balaguer (PRSC). Balaguer defeated Bosch (PRD) 767,265 vs. Bosch 525,230.
1970: Joaquin Balaguer (PRSC). Balaguer defeated Augusto Lora (MIDA), with 707,136 votes versus 252,760.
1974: Joaquin Balaguer (PRSC). Balaguer won, at a time when the leading opposition party, the PRD abstained from participating in the election. Balaguer won with 942,276 votes vs. minority party candidate Homero Lajara Burgos who received 170,693.
1978: Antonio Guzman (PRD). Guzman defeated Balaguer with a vote of 855,765 vs. 698,163.
1982: Salvador Jorge Blanco (PRD). Jorge Blanco defeated Balaguer with 839,092 votes to 656,672 votes.
1986. Joaquin Balaguer (PRSC). Balaguer returned to power with 855,565 votes to 706,588 votes of the PRD with Jacobo Majluta running for President.
1990. Joaquin Balaguer (PRSC). Balaguer defeated Juan Bosch (running with Leonel Fernandez as his vice president) by 647,626 vs. 440,366 votes.
1994. Joaquin Balaguer (PRSC). Balaguer won against Jose Francisco Pena Gomez with 1,263,341, but the very close election lead to an agreement where the presidential term was cut to two years, re-election was banned and a second election was called for 1996.
1996. Leonel Fernandez (PLD). Jose Francisco Pena Gomez (PRD) ran this time against Leonel Fernandez, but did not receive 50%+1 of the vote, and thus a second round was necessary. In the second round, Fernandez won with the support of the PRSC, including party leader Joaquin Balaguer.
2000. Hipolito Mejia (PRD). Mejia defeated Danilo Medina of the PLD, with 1,432,548 votes, or 49.9%. Medina withdrew his right to a runoff election, required when a candidate fails to secure 50%+1 of the vote.
2004. Leonel Fernandez (PLD). Leonel Fernandez defeated Hipolito Mejia with 57% of the vote.
 
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