Fraud A Likelihood in Dominican Republic Elections
US and OAS Once Again Ignore Likelihood of Fraud in Dominican Republic Elections
Ruling PLD employs wide array of strong-arm tactics to ensure second round-vote and later victory for its lackluster candidate
PRD choice, Mejía, the clear favorite of electorate, could win by a majority in today’s vote, if it is remotely fair
Ex-President Balaguer and his political allies feature long history of ballot fraud, now in association with the current ruling PLD
Unalloyed racism spurs PLD’s cynical effort to limit number of voters
US and OAS give go ahead to questionable elections
Current fraud efforts reminiscent of last year’s misuse of municipal government funds by PLD officers
Fernández has good reason to fear investigations into the privatization of state facilities and the strongman tactics the party used to choose the chairman of the Municipal League
Today, presidential elections in the Dominican Republic are being held, an event that is being closely watched by hundreds of thousands of Dominican nationals in New York and elsewhere. Outgoing president Leonel Fernández and his PLD cohorts, apparently without Washington or the OAS even raising an eyebrow, are bent on preventing the country’s clear favorite, Hipólito Mejía, from winning a first round victory in presidential balloting. At the present time, the latter enjoys a 46% backing in the polls in a field of three major candidates. If Mejía fails to obtain a clear majority, the stage would be set for a second round of voting in which the PLD candidate would join forces with ex-President Joaquin Balaguer’s PRSC to prevent Mejía from gaining a majority. Fernández's intention would be to use such an alliance to make possible a second round victory for his fellow PLD leader and hand-picked successor, Danilo Medino. Marked by massive corruption scandals, featuring allegations of pay-offs to obtain government contracts, including the bribes involved in the attempted purchase of Brazilian helicopters for the Dominican Air Force (despite the Boeing Corporation’s cheaper bid for a more suitable aircraft), the antics of the Fernández administration have worn thin for the great bulk of the population. Dominicans have also seen their incomes remain stagnant while privatizations and foreign investments in the economy have earned fortunes for many of Fernández’s corrupt palace cronies who have worked their way into pending deals.
Driven by their desire to somehow retain political power for its obvious economic yield, as well as fearing that the social, political and economic reforms promised by Mejia and his Revolutionary Party (PRD) could lead to the exposure of past instances of skullduggery by the incumbents, PLD operatives have resorted to an array of bullying tactics and dirty tricks to ensure that the election be postponed. They are claiming that many of their supporters have been unable to obtain identification cards from the Electoral Board, an agency they do not control. Also, if Mejía fails to receive a majority and the PLD candidate squeaks into a second round, the PLD, in concert with Balaguer could create more electoral mischief before the scheduled June 30 face off.
PLD Plays Nasty
Because its nominee, Danilo Medino, has turned out to be a weak candidate, the PLD has unleashed a bag of dirty tricks. In an effort to challenge the hardly concealed display of racism which has permeated the day-to-day operations of the local as well as the national levels of the PLD, the national Electoral Board (JCE) president, Manuel Morel Cerda, denounced PLD migration director, Danilo Díaz, several days ago for ordering a military-led operation to seize identification cards (necessary to vote) from large numbers of black Dominicans. Last year, the PLD attempted to deny the Election Board funds to which it was entitled, in order to undermine its operations as well as legitimate claims that would later be made by the PLD that the identification cards had been denied to its followers. Black PRD members were falsely accused, by Díaz, of being illegal Haitian immigrants. In addition, there have been reports of the sudden mass imprisonment and deportation of supposed illegal Haitian immigrants (the Dominican Republic shares the Caribbean island of Hispañola with Haiti). Even Balaguer has made the same allegations concerning the mistreatment of black PRSC members. The harassment of potential black voters mirrors the racism rife among the country’s tiny mulatto and white elite, who dominate the PLD and the PRSC. With justification, such elements were accused of stealing the presidency in the 1994 elections from the likely winner, the now deceased black candidate–the highly regarded and committed democrat, Jose Francisco Peña Gomez, who was the most beloved Dominican of his generation. Ignoring accusations by the Dominican press, Díaz has now tripled the number of soldiers participating in the card-snatching operation, adding to the already dangerously high visibility role of the military being sanctioned by Fernández in the days leading up to the election.
Dirty tricks by the
Not limiting themselves only to utilizing the brute force of the military to serve their desire to retain political power, PLD activists were photographed purchasing identification cards from potential voters several days ago. The reporters who took the photographs were later attacked and beaten by the PLD henchmen, as were another group of reporters during Medina’s closing rally, one of whom had his head bashed by the pistol butt of a Fernández aide. The seizure and purchase of ID cards by the president’s underlings, are just the most recent controversy surrounding this latest step in the degradation of the electoral process, which was instituted by Fernández soon after taking office and should have been clearly visible to concerned U.S. and OAS officials.
Earlier in the campaign, the president fielded widespread allegations that his administration purposely engineered delays in the issuance of the identity cards by denying the Electoral Board adequate funding, in its attempts to discredit its authority. The goal would be to fake a political crisis, which would legitimize the use of military and police forces to attack popular mobilizations of Mejía supporters in order to justify the postponement of the vote. Fernández used a similarly heavy hand in early 1999, when he denied the country’s island-wide municipal governments' association (which had a PRD majority) the ability to vote for a chairman in charge of their organization, which would have enabled public funds to be allocated for local uses.
In a demonstration of its inexplicable continued tacit endorsement of President Fernández’s corrupt regime, Washington has remained conspicuously silent amidst growing accusations of fraud surrounding privatizations, including the state sugar corporation and the failed efforts to privatize the woeful state power corporation. Once again, as has been the case for almost the entire past three decades, the State Department has failed to come up with what could be described as a responsible policy toward the island.
In spite of the fact that the Dominican Republic (along with Haiti and Puerto Rico) has become a major transiting point for Colombian drugs making their way into the U.S., the White House has found what it may see as more important reasons to continue its unquestioning backing of the Fernández administration. These include its free market policies, which have spurred some, albeit uneven growth in the economy and greatly opened up foreign investment opportunities. But such developments have often come at the expense of the majority of Dominicans, who have seen little improvement in their daily standard of living since Fernández took over four years ago. As for the OAS, repeating its listless performance in Peru, the regional organization arrived late, and once there, gave the go ahead to an election process that has been plagued by bona fide accusations of fraud. The OAS electoral team once again offered its pro forma approval to the appearance rather than the reality of a free election. By neglecting its institutional responsibilities, the OAS has ill-served its mission, and therefore the hemisphere, joining the White House in sitting out an opportunity to advance democratic legitimacy in a Latin American country.