By: Jeb Sprague-Silgado - NACLA
In the Dominican Republic, as in many other countries around the Caribbean, the political strategy of leading dominant groups in recent decades has been one of polyarchy – that is to say, the options in democratic elections have been limited to voters selecting between different factions of elites. Since the 1970s, U.S. foreign policymakers, along with an increasingly wide array of UN, EU and other international agency officials have come to promote this approach. If ideological differences can be minimized, with parties differing little on core issues like economic development, then electoral competition is not only unthreatening to dominant interests, but also legitimating to notions of democracy.
This scenario is on clear display in the Dominican Republic, where the country’s mainstream political establishment, while squabbling amongst themselves, has sought to further facilitate and benefit from this “new normal.” The upcoming May 15th general election pits the country’s two mainstream parties, the Dominican Liberation Party (Partido de la Liberación Dominicana, PLD) and the Modern Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Moderno or PRM), amidst a variety of other parties.
The incumbent candidate and leader in the polls is Danilo Medina, of the PLD, and his main opponent is Luis Abinader of the PRM. Medina’s tenure in office has been marked by a deepening of the country’s integration with the global economy and a controversial “denationalization” program targeting Haitian migrant families and laborers and the descendants of Haitian migrants.