His victory is final, in a country accustomed to contested electoral results. Luis Abinader, the candidate for the opposition, won the presidential election in the Dominican Republic hands down on Sunday, July 5, ending sixteen years of uninterrupted reign of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD, center). The PLD candidate, Gonzalo Castillo, recognized the “Irreversible triumph” from M. Abinader from Sunday evening.
According to results still partial published Monday by the Central Election Commission, which relate to 88% of ballot papers, Mr. Abinader, 52, of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM, Social Democrat), won with 52.3% of voice. Gonzalo Castillo, 59, obtained 37.7% of the vote. Finally, Leonel Fernandez, 66, former president of the country and defector of the PLD, won only 8.8% of the vote.
It was the first election in Latin America since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which on Monday July 6 had affected over 38,000 people and killed 804 in the Dominican Republic. On Saturday, the country even recorded its largest increase in twenty-four hours, with 1,036 new cases. The general elections, originally scheduled for May 17, two months after the March 15 municipal elections – already won by the opposition – had been postponed until July 5 because of the epidemic.
An unprecedented campaign
An epidemic which marked an unprecedented campaign, without meetings and without the noisy caravans which generally accompany the candidates, in full state of emergency decreed very early – March 19. Luis Abinader himself announced that he had contracted the coronavirus on June 11.
This 52-year-old economist and entrepreneur, born on July 12, 1967 in Santo Domingo, is the first Dominican president to be born after the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo (1930-1961). At the head of a family business, Abicor, owner of several hotels, a university and one of the main cement factories in the country, he had never held an elected office, although he was not a novice in politics: son of José Rafael Abinader Wassaf, a son of Lebanese immigrants who was the vice-president of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), Luis Abinader presented himself as the PRD candidate for vice-president of the country in 2012, alongside Hipolito Mejia.
He succeeded in interpreting the will to clearness of a part of the middle class and the youth
After this first defeat against the PLD candidate, Danilo Medina, MM Abinader and Mejia created their own political party, the Modern Revolutionary Party. In 2016, Luis Abinader ran for the first time in a presidential election against Mr. Medina, who was seeking a second term. And suffered its second defeat, with 35% of the vote.
Candidate of “Change”, his campaign slogan, he succeeded in interpreting the will to clear up a part of the middle class and the youth, after the four consecutive mandates of the PLD, tainted by accusations of corruption, especially after the scandals linked to the Odebrecht case. The Brazilian construction company has admitted to paying bribes to many political leaders in Latin America, including $ 92 billion (82 billion euros) in the Dominican Republic. The scandal had drawn crowds to the streets in January 2017, during unprecedented “green marches” in this small Caribbean state of 11 million inhabitants.
Luis Abinader, who said he was in favor of decriminalizing abortion in the event of rape, danger to the life of pregnant women and malformation of the fetus – in a country which prohibits abortion in all circumstances – a also promised to create 600,000 jobs, improve education and strengthen security.
Throughout its terms, the LDP has nonetheless been responsible for unprecedented economic stability and the highest growth in Latin America and the Caribbean (an average of 6% per year between 2014 and 2019). It also succeeded in reducing the poverty rate from 34% to 20% between 2008 and 2016. The most disadvantaged classes, however, have not really benefited from growth, which has mainly benefited circles linked to power.
For the new president, who will take office on August 16, the challenge is twofold: to overcome persistent social inequalities and, at the same time, manage a health crisis that is set to last, while forecasts already anticipate a recession of 5% in 2020 .