Dominican Republic vote: 'Market-friendly' Medina wins


Dominican president-elect Danilo Medina announces his electoral victory in Santo Domingo.


Erika Santelices

Danilo Medina, a 60-year-old economist who’s also trained in chemistry, appeared on Monday to have handily won the Dominican Republic’s presidential election. Yet some are questioning what kind of weird science the ruling party concocted to win so many votes.

Medina, of the governing Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), took 51.24 percent of the vote, beating former President Hipolito Mejia who garnered 46.93 percent, news reports said on Monday with nearly all the votes counted.

Medina’s campaign chief Francisco Javier Garcia called it “a landslide victory,” Reuters reports. The result just gives Medina the margin needed (51 percent) to avoid a second round of voting.

Mejia, a 71-year-old who calls himself “Papa,” doesn’t see it that way. He claimed fraud and refused to concede, reports the Miami Herald.

But, according to the Washington Post, election observers saw vote buying by both parties.

Most Americans may know little about the country that gave us sunny Caribbean beaches, hips-swinging merengue dancing, baseball’s Sammy Sosa and Manhattan’s Washington Heights.

Here are a few more tidbits: The Dominican Republic has a population of more than 10 million people living in a nation roughly the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.

It shares an island with Haiti. The Dominicans were the first to respond and give aid to the Haitians after the devastating January 2010 earthquake.

Times have been far better for the Dominicans than for Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas. While the Dominican Republic is dealing with serious poverty too, it is one of the Caribbean’s fastest-growing economies and the region’s biggest tourist destination, according to Financial Times.

The country puts the DR in DR-CAFTA, a free trade agreement signed by the United States, Central American countries and the Dominican Republic.

And another thing about the Dominicans: They are deeply suspicious of corruption, research shows. The country ranked 129th of 183 countries on Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index. (The higher the number the worse the perception.)

Even though Mejia and his Dominican Revolutionary Party are expected to challenge the election result, Medina looks set to take the helm in August.

This election is a role reversal for these politicians. In the 2000 elections, it was Mejia who beat Medina and went on to rule until August 2004.

The president-elect told CNN en Español on Monday that he will address drug trafficking, education and income inequality in a country where more than one-third of the population lives in poverty.

In the interview, Medina said this is his main goal: "I want to build a middle-class society."

He is also expected to push for tax reform and tackle energy distribution in a country that suffers blackouts, and he should have no trouble passing legislation through congress, says political risk consultancy Eurasia Group.

Eurasia also calls Medina “market-friendly.” That means a lot in a country where corruption and inefficient bureaucracy make business difficult, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report.

“We think Mr. Medina’s win would be well-received by the markets,” writes Boris Segura, Latin America analyst at investment bank Nomura Securities.

“First, Mr. Medina is likely to attain more governability during the next term (2012-16). … Second, another PLD administration would also be more likely to hit the ground running in terms of economic policymaking.”

Some Dominicans will need convincing.