Monday, May 21, 2012

Elections in the Dominican Republic

So why are elections so heated in Latin America?  Yesterday was election day here in the Dominican Republic.  There were a number of candidates for president on the ballot. Like the U.S., the term for a president is 4 years, with a possibility of serving an additional four years if re-elected. Among these candidates was Danilo Medina, who is a member of the party which has been in power in this country the
Headline reads: Who will be the President?
last eight years (currently with President Leonel Fernandez). Danilo Medina was announced this morning as the winner, and new president, with 51.2 % of the votes.  His strongest opponent was former president Hipolito Mejia who represented the previous party that had been in power (who garnered 46.9% of the vote).  He served as president here in this nation (2004-2008). A great place to keep up with news in English about the Dominican Republic is

Back to the question of why elections are so heated here.  Many government positions are appointed.  That is not uncommon in the US, however, here the appointments may go down even to affecting who runs individual public schools, fire

departments, police stations, and all government offices.  Governors are appointed for all provinces. If your job, or your relatives job was on the line because of an election, it might create some stress, anxiety, or stir up emotions in you.

Yesterday being election day, by law there were not to be any public gatherings that could be in any way construed to be political.  There was a 24 hour ban on selling liquor, or public drinking.  We were even told that a curfew was in place after 10 pm, and anyone could be arrested wandering the streets at night. Almost all the churches in the country canceled their Sunday services because of the elections.  I say almost, because we went to a Haitian service in the morning, as many of these Haitians do not have a right to vote, they have work permits only (if that).  Estimates are are saying that there are between 1 to 2 million Haitians in the Dominican Republic.  We had a great service as this small church celebrated their 2nd year anniversary as a fellowship. There were 25 people in a 10 ft. by 12 ft. room (the size of a small bedroom),
with another 30 visitors sitting outside listening through the church windows in the open air. The visitors were from two other churches gathered there to celebrate with them.  The singing was jubilant, and "we had church".

 They are praying about buying a piece of land for their future church building.  They are $5000.00 US short.  It was a unique service for me as I translated for the English speaker (Evangelist Landis White) into Spanish, and in turn Pastor Frantz translated into Creole.

Pastor Frantz, myself, and Evangelist Landis White
Many Dominicans traveled to their home towns to vote  Saturday, even though they could have transferred their cedula or Identification Cards to vote at a more current location.  In general the people opted to return to their home towns and see families and childhood friends.  It is like a holiday weekend for many.  Monday, schools are closed, as many people will be returning from voting out of town.

Today the mood was festive as the winning party celebrated by organizing purple flag waving caravans, with horns blaring. These are processionals with cars, trucks and buses in  line causing all kinds of traffic jams.  We saw one pick-up truck dragging a car door on the street behind them to make noise as they announced their victory.

The new president Danilo Medina has talked about changing the education system. Currently because of lack of public facilities for school use, most children only go to school half a day, either from 7:30 am to 12:00 noon, or 1:00 pm to 5:30 pm. He has said he favors a system more like the US, where children will study until 3 pm.  How to make a change like this will be interesting to watch.  He is saying he would start with one new grade added every year.  He is talking about 12 years to incorporate these changes. He would have to count on the next president(s) following through on this goal.  Unfortunately, history here has shown that plans made by one party, are not necessarily followed up by another party. In general, though, there is a feeling of stability in the air, as the PLD (Partido de la Liberacion Dominicana/The Dominican Liberation Party) continues at the helm of the nation.    


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