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Monday, June 24, 2024

Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader Poised for Re-Election Victory

President Luis Abinader of the Dominican Republic is on track to secure re-election, driven by his stringent stance on immigration, anti-corruption efforts, and the robust performance of the nation’s economy. With 59 percent of the vote counted, Abinader leads significantly over his closest competitors: former president Leonel Fernández with 27 percent and provincial mayor Abel Martínez with 11 percent, according to the national electoral authority.

Despite only partial results being available, both Fernández and Martínez conceded, congratulating Abinader on his apparent victory. In his victory speech, Abinader expressed gratitude to his opponents and voters, pledging not to disappoint them.

The election highlighted how Abinader leveraged migration fears to his advantage. His administration has deported tens of thousands of Haitians this year, despite international appeals to halt the expulsions amid Haiti’s escalating gang violence. Additionally, Abinader is constructing a border wall between the two countries sharing the island of Hispaniola.

Abinader’s success contrasts with many Latin American leaders, who have faced declining approval ratings. His popularity is bolstered by his anti-corruption initiatives, which were pivotal in his 2020 election victory. Germán has led investigations into high-ranking officials from the previous administration, including a former attorney general and finance minister. While some critics argue these probes focus mainly on Abinader’s opponents, the passage of a 2022 asset forfeiture law demonstrates a commitment to lasting change by dismantling criminal enterprises.

Political analyst Rosario Espinal noted that Abinader could have won re-election on his anti-corruption platform alone but sought to widen his margin by embracing strict immigration policies.

Anti-Haitian sentiment has deep roots in Dominican history. The 2010 constitutional amendment and a 2013 court ruling denied citizenship to Dominican-born children of undocumented migrants, leaving around 130,000 descendants of Haitian migrants stateless, according to rights groups.

Abinader intensified these measures following Haiti’s turmoil post-2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. In 2023, he suspended visas for Haitians and temporarily closed the border over a water dispute. His administration has also faced accusations of looting and targeting pregnant Haitian women for deportation.

Pablo Mella, academic director of the Pedro Francisco Bonó Institute, criticized Abinader’s policies as disgraceful, especially the treatment of pregnant Haitian women. However, the tough stance on immigration resonated with voters, with nearly 90 percent supporting the border wall construction.

The Dominican diaspora also participated in the election, with over 600,000 eligible voters in the U.S. and more than 100,000 in Spain.

Defending his policies, Abinader compared them to immigration measures in Jamaica, Bahamas, the U.S., and Canada, insisting on the need to secure his nation. “We are just applying our law,” he told the BBC.

Despite broad support, some voters expressed dissatisfaction. Tirso Lorenzo Piña, a doorman in Santo Domingo, criticized Abinader’s support for Palestine’s UN membership, reflecting the diverse opinions among the electorate.

Abinader’s re-election bid has benefited from a divided opposition and widespread approval of investor-friendly policies that have driven economic growth. His effective management of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly the swift vaccine distribution, facilitated a quick recovery for the crucial tourism sector, which accounts for 16 percent of GDP.

While the Dominican economy is set to grow by 5.1 percent this year, ongoing inequality remains a challenge. Abinader has addressed this by expanding cash-transfer programs to support the country’s poorest citizens, striving to balance economic success with social equity.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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