Dominican Republic votes in election postponed by virus

People pass an election campaign poster of presidential candidate Gonzalo Castillo in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, June 05, 2020.Image copyright


The election had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic

Voters in the Dominican Republic are choosing a new president, in elections postponed starting in May due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Opinion polls suggest that Luis Abinader, of the opposition Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), is the favorite to get the most votes in the first round.

To win directly, the main candidate must receive more than 50% of the votes.

Dominicans will also elect 190 members of the chamber of deputies and 32 senators.

Who are the main candidates for President?

Opinion polls have always put Luis Abinader ahead of all other candidates.

    Dominican opposition presidential candidate for the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) Luis Abinader


Luis AbinaderSource: BBC Monitoring

Abinader, whose family is of Lebanese descent, is an American-educated economist.

He is the executive president of Grupo Abicor, a family-owned company that operates major tourism projects in the Dominican Republic.

He ran for president in 2016 and made it to the second round, but lost to outgoing president Danilo Medina, who defeated him by nearly 27 percentage points.

Abinader and his wife announced on June 11 that they had tested positive for coronavirus and that he had to temporarily stop campaigning while he recovered.

The Dominican Republic is one of the most affected countries in the Caribbean, with more than 35,000 confirmed cases and more than 775 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Abinader took the lead in opinion polls after a split in the ruling Dominican Liberation Party, which has been in power for more than a decade.

According to the Dominican constitution, presidents are limited to two consecutive terms in office. That means President Medina, who has been in power since 2012, cannot resist.

He has given his support to the former minister of public works, Gonzalo Castillo.

    Gonzalo Castillo speaks during a press conference in 2017


Gonzalo CastilloSource: BBC Monitoring

Castillo is a wealthy businessman who studied business administration in Canada and who has founded several companies over the years, including the Helidosa aviation firm and the Aeroambulancia air ambulance service.

But some of the voters who have been loyal to the Dominican Liberation Party in the past may shift their allegiance to former President Leonel Fernández.

Fernández, who was president from 1996 to 2000 and again from 2004 to 2012, decided to stand for election for the Popular Force party, which he has led since leaving the Dominican Liberation Party.

Leonel Fernández speaking at a press conference


Leonel FernandezSource: BBC Monitoring

He studied law in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, but spent much of his youth in New York.

He has worked as a lawyer, university professor and author.

Opinion polls place him in third place behind Abinader and Castillo.

However, pollsters acknowledged that, with the elections held in unprecedented circumstances amid the continuing pandemic, it was difficult to predict how voters would react that day.

All the candidates had to severely curtail their campaign due to the virus, but the president of the central electoral board assured voters that the polling stations had received hygiene kits and that the nation was “ready” for the elections.