Not a Barbados trend only, a Caribbean epidemic: Voter abstention grows in the Dominican Republic

Santo Domingan Analysts say despite winning the presidency in May’s election, the ruling PLD party has been losing the support of Dominican voters. As reported in El Caribe, in 2004 the party won with 57.11% of the vote, but since then voter support to the party has slid 11.29%, not taking into account the allied votes. In the 2004 election, with Leonel Fernandez as candidate, the PLD running alone received 1,771,377 votes for 49.02%. In 2008, Fernandez, again running on the PLD ticket obtained 44.94% of the vote without alliances. In the May 2012 presidential election, the PLD received 37.73% of the vote, 7.21% less than in 2008. In the most recent election, the PLD received 1,711,737 votes, less than in 2004.

In the report, El Caribe journalist Oscar Quezada observes the declining vote poses a challenge for politician and President-elect Danilo Medina. Political commentator Rosario Espinal says that Medina needs to lead a government that surpasses that of Fernandez and to fulfill his campaign promises of social inclusion.

Hoy reported without alliances, the PRD vote was greater than that of the PLD in 28 of 32 provinces. The PLD vote only exceeded the PRD vote in San Juan de la Maguana (home province of presidential candidate Danilo Medina) with 44.43% to 38.37%, the National District with 43.43% PLD to 38.13% PRD, Province of Santo Domingo 41.92% PLD to 39.22% PRD and La Romana 39.91% PLD to 38.14% PRD.

This as Juan Bolivar Diaz summed up the elections in Hoy; his conclusion is the state won out again, describing how the ruling party assembled an electoral machine that crushed all that it found in its way, thanks to the vote of 13 allied parties that were sustained by government entities and the abuse of all sorts of public resources.

The ruling party and allies won the 20 May election 51.21% to 46.95% of runner-up PRD. The difference was 193,153 votes. The vote was confirmed by an exit poll carried out by Participacion Ciudadana, the civic watchdog group, and the PRD’s own computer center, he reports. Likewise, the leading polls – Greenberg Quinland Rosner (51-47%), Penn Schoen & Berland (51%-46%), and Gallup (51-45%) had also suggested this would be the outcome.

Diaz writes the election result reveals a society that is deeply divided in three similar parts [those who voted for the PLD, the PRD and those who abstained], with the party that received the most votes now in the opposition. He speculates that political-social consensus will be necessary for governance, and social and economic stability.

{FILE IMAGE} Diaz says of the 6,502,968 voters, 30.24% did not vote, 35.72% did so for the winning PLD coalition and 34.03% for the opposition, including 32.75% for the PRD and allies.

He writes that the vote practically divided the DR in two: 16 provinces and the National District where the government party coalition won, and 15 where the leading opposition party, the PRD and allies won. But he makes the point that by parties, the PRD received more votes than the PLD in 28 of 31 provinces and in the totality of the votes by 200,000 with 42.13% PRD to 37.73 of the PLD. He comments the PLD only won in the National District, San Juan de la Maguana and La Romana.

He mentions that the PRSC, led by Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso, a long-time PLD ally received 5.87% of the vote. He says that was 1% more than the PRSC achieved in 2008, when it ran with current La Altagracia senator and former PLD ally Amable Aristy Castro as candidate.

In his report he says that the election revealed a system where the use of government resources, shameless wealth accumulation and political patronage have created a party and deeply vice-ridden electoral system that impedes the emergence of alternatives, citing the low vote count received by alternative parties, which in total received only 1.83% of the vote. He comments that the decline of democratic institutions is reaching dangerous levels, and that there is an urgent need for political and social reform, as well as respect for the law and Constitution.

Coinciding with the increase in the business of politics and political patronage, voter abstention is on the rise. In an analysis, PRD economic advisor Andres Dauhajre examines the increase in voter abstention since 1994, turning non-voters into practically the third “political” force in the Dominican Republic.

In the 2012 presidential election, almost a third chose not to vote, or 29.8% of the total of 6.5 million registered to vote.

In the 2012 presidential election, the PLD and allies won with 35.71% of registered voters. The PRD and allies received 32.74%, and abstention was at 29.8%, with minority parties accounting for 1.29% and annulled votes 0.46%.

Dauhajre would like to see penalties imposed on people who don’t vote to encourage more participation.

Dauhajre writes that the historical abstention rate was:

  • 1994: 16.19% (Joaquin Balaguer/PRSC vs. Jose Francisco Pena Gomez/PRD),
  • 1996: 22.60% (Leonel Fernandez/PLD vs. Jacinto Peynado/PRSC)
  • 2000: 23.86% (Hipolito Mejia/PRD vs. Danilo Medina/PLD)
  • 2004: 27.16% (Leonel Fernandez/PLD vs. Hipolito Mejia/PRD)
  • 2008: 28.64% (Leonel Fernandez/PLD vs. Miguel Vargas/PRD)
  • 2012: 29.8% (Danilo Medina/PLD vs. Hipolito Mejia/PRD)

He favors creating a hefty penalty to encourage more Dominicans to vote. For instance, he says the government could annul non-voters’ IDs-voting cards, with a RD$4,000 charge for issuing a new one. He said this would increase the cost to RD$5,000 for political parties seeking to incur in the common practice of buying IDs-voting cards from people suspected of voting for an opposing party.

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