Dominican republic’s ruling party appears to have 1st round win butresults in dispute

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – A governing party official appeared to have scored a first-roundwin in the Dominican Republic’s presidential election butsupporters of his main opponent complained of vote-buying and otherforms of fraud and said they would challenge the results. Danilo Medina of the current president’s Dominican Liberation Partyreceived just over 51 percent of Sunday’s vote with 83 percent ofthe ballots counted, according to the Caribbean country’s ElectoralCommission. His main rival, former President Hipolito Mejia of theDominican Revolutionary Party, had nearly 47 percent. The winnerneeded more than 50 percent to avoid a runoff. Medina said he was confident he would win, but that the ElectoralCommission would keep scrutinizing ballots through the night.

Hethanked a crowd of supporters and sent them home. “We will celebrate in a big way tomorrow,” he said. Mejia did not concede and questioned the results as did others inhis party. Luis Abinader, his vice presidential candidate, said theDominican Revolutionary Party would present a report detailingirregularities on Monday. “We are going to defend democracy,” Abinader said.

“We are going toshow the country what really has happened today.” Mejia’s representative on the Electoral Commission accused theruling party of fraud, saying the former president should havereceived many more votes than the results reflected. “We all knowwhat party the director of the Electoral Commission belongs to,” hesaid at a news conference. The balloting appeared orderly in general but there were widespreadreports that backers of both parties were offering people paymentsof about $15 to vote for their candidate or to turn over theirvoting cards and withhold their vote. Campaign officials denied theallegations. Observers from the Organization of American States confirmedincidents of vote-buying but not enough to taint the overallresults of what was otherwise a “successful,” election, said thehead of the mission, Tabare Vazquez, a former president of Uruguay. Commercial LED Displays

The candidates were vying to succeed President Leonel Fernandez,who spent $2.6 billion on such major infrastructure projects as asubway system, hospitals and roads to modernize a country that isthe top tourist destination in the Caribbean but remains largelypoor. Fernandez was barred by the Constitution from running for athird consecutive term. Many voters conceded that Medina, a 60-year-old economist andstalwart of the Dominican Liberation Party, wasn’t a particularlyexciting candidate, but said they were eager for stability in acountry with a history of economic and political turmoil. “I don’t want major change,” said Amauris Chang, a 59-year-old shopowner. “I want the country to grow and I want it to be peaceful,and I think that’s a common idea among people who are civilized.” Six candidates were running for president, but Medina’s only realopponent was Mejia, who lost his bid for a second presidential termin 2004 because of a deep economic crisis sparked by the collapseof three banks. Indoor Advertising LED Display

Mejia and his Dominican Revolutionary Party have a devotedfollowing. Supporters of the 71-year-old garrulous populist soughtto portray some of the public works spending as wasteful andbenefiting backers of the president, and insisted he wasn’t toblame for the 2004 economic crisis. “The crisis could have happened to any government. It had nothingto do with Hipolito Mejia,” said 62-year-old maintenance man AlonsoCalcano. Demetrio Espinosa, a 60-year-old jobless resident of the capital’sColonial district, said Mejia understands the needs of poor peoplelike him. Outdoor Advertising LED Display Manufacturer

He said most people can’t afford to be treated in the newhospitals nor do they need a subway if they don’t have a job. “They made a lot of their friends into millionaires and spent thepublic’s money,” Espinosa said of the ruling party. Besides president, Dominicans were electing a vice president from afield that included the heavily favored first lady, MargaritaCedeno de Fernandez, and seven members of the Chamber of Deputieswho will represent people who have settled overseas. Tens ofthousands were expected to cast ballots in places with largenumbers of Dominicans, including New York, New Jersey, Florida andPuerto Rico. Both presidential candidates proposed to increase spending oneducation and to do what they can to create jobs in a country of 10million people that is largely dependent on tourism and whereunemployment is officially about 14 percent, though the vastmajority of workers are in the poorly paid informal sector.

Thetypical salary for those who do have regular jobs is around $260 amonth. The Dominican Republic has also become an important route for drugsmugglers seeking to reach the U.S. through nearby Puerto Rico andthere are widespread concerns about the influence of drugtrafficking. The candidates also traded accusations of incompetenceand corruption.

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