Dominican Republic presidential election, 2000
Presidential elections were held in the Dominican Republic on 16 May 2000. Hipólito Mejía of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) won the election, defeating Danilo Medina of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) and former president Joaquín Balaguer of the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC). Voter turnout was 76.1%.
The last presidential election in 1996 saw Leonel Fernández of the PLD elected as President. He defeated José Francisco Peña Gómez of the PRD in the runoff after incumbent President Joaquín Balaguer, told his supporters to back Fernández. His party's candidate, then Vice President Jacinto Peynado had come in third place at the election without support from the core of the party.
Between 1996 and 2000 the economy grew strongly, with 7.1% growth in 1998 and 8.3% in 1999. This growth, the fastest of any Caribbean country, was fueled by increased foreign investment and the privatisation of state owned enterprises. However Fernández's approval ratings were only 45% by 1999, with strong discontent among the poor who had not benefited from economic growth and had seen power cuts and price rises. This helped lead to the opposition PRD winning a majority in the 1998 parliamentary elections.
Fernández was unable to run for re-election as the then constitution prevented consecutive presidential terms. As a result the governing PLD selected an aide to Fernández, Danilo Medina, as their candidate. However there was little enthusiasm for Medina, even in the PLD, and he trailed in the polls.
In January 2000 the former president Balaguer, at the age of 93, announced that he would seek an eighth term as president as the candidate of his Social Christian Reformist Party. Balaguer was blind and unable to walk without assistance, but still had many committed supporters which meant he could hold the balance between the other 2 main candidates.
Mejía campaigned by attacking inequality between rich and poor, pledging to increase social spending and to preserve a role for the state in the economy. Mejía said that he would reverse some of the privatisations that he said had been corrupt and annul licenses for 10 sugar refineries. Mejía also pledged to make the Dominican Republic self-sufficient in food, from its position as an importer of $1.1bn food. However some of Meija's plans were seen as campaign rhetoric and he was seen as likely to be more economically orthodox than his campaign would make him seem to be.
Mejía's plans were attacked by the incumbent president Fernández, who said they would damage the economy. Medina meanwhile pledged to continue the economic policies pursued by Fernández, while trying to help the neediest people more. Medina saw economic growth as providing the opportunity for more investment in education and health. However the Social Christian Reformist Party also attacked the government for mismanagement and was seen as being less likely to back the PLD than in 1996 if they came third. Balaguer said he would prioritise agrarian reform, helping farmers and preserving the natural resources of the Dominican Republic if he was elected and he gained as the election neared.
Fears that the election could be affected by violence were raised after an official of the PLD was killed after an incident involving the bodyguards of the PRD's Mejía. However the election proceeded alright and international election monitors said they did not find any irregularities in the vote.
The results saw Hipólito Mejía win 49.87% of the vote, compared to 24.9% for Danilo Medina and 24.6% for Joaquín Balaguer. Despite being just short of the majority required to avoid a runoff Mejía's supporters claimed victory and called on the opposition to avoid the expense of a runoff on the 30 June. After Balaguer said that he could not ensure all his supporters would back Medina, Medina said he not seek a runoff vote despite calls to do so from some in his own party. However, Medina would have needed nearly all of Balaguer's supporters to back him in the runoff in order to have any realistic chance of closing the nearly 25-point first-round gap with Mejía.
|Hipólito Mejía||Dominican Revolutionary Party||1,593,231||49.87|
|Danilo Medina||Dominican Liberation Party||796,923||24.94|
|Joaquín Balaguer||Social Christian Reformist Party||785,926||24.60|
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