Dominican Republic's vote is dominated by Haiti crisis

Dominican Republic’s vote is dominated by Haiti crisis

/ 01:27 PM May 19, 2024

Dominican Republic's vote is dominated by Haiti crisis

Dominican Republic President and presidential candidate for the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), Luis Abinader (C), poses with international election observers during a meeting at the Catalonia Hotel in Santo Domingo on May 18, 2024, on the eve of the presidential elections. Agence France-Presse

SANTO DOMINGO — Dominican President Luis Abinader is poised for comfortable reelection Sunday on the back of widespread support for his tough stance on migration from troubled neighbor Haiti.

The two nations share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, but the more prosperous Dominican Republic stands in stark contrast to its chaos-plagued neighbor, which has been rocked by months of gang violence.


The volatility across the border has been a key issue in the election campaign, but Abinader, 56, also boasts success in managing the economy and the Covid-19 pandemic.


READ: Dominican Republic president firm on closing all borders with Haiti

Polls show him leading closest rival Leonel Fernandez — a 70-year-old three-time ex-president — with 60 percent of voter support compared to 25 percent.

Millionaire businessman Abinader was elected amid the Covid pandemic in 2020, promising to restore trust in the government after several high-profile corruption scandals embroiling public officials.

In office, he began building a 164-kilometer (102-mile) concrete wall along the border with Haiti to keep out undocumented migrants.

He also had more than 250,000 migrants deported in 2023.

United against migration

The capital, Santo Domingo, and smaller provincial towns are plastered with political posters, and Abinader and Fernandez have crisscrossed the country holding rallies with hundreds of supporters chanting slogans and dancing Dominican merengue.


The migration issue has not been a divisive one in the election, with the opposition backing the deportation of Haitian migrants and increased border security.

READ: Haiti on brink of civil war, Dominican Republic warns

“We have the right to do so,” said Fernandez during an election debate, criticizing international pressure to take in Haitian refugees.

“We will keep deporting those who are illegal,” said Abinader.

A Gallup poll showed that 47.5 percent of Dominicans believe the country is “on the right path” and 40 percent believe the economy is doing better than before.

“Stabilizing a country is not that easy and putting it to work correctly is not that easy either. That takes time,” Genry Perez, a 30-year-old transporter, told AFP.

“That’s why the population wants to give Abinader a chance.”

Fernandez has accused Abinader’s government of manipulating growth data. The World Bank reports that the Dominican Republic economy grew 2.5 percent in 2023.

On his side, Abinader has said that voting for Fernandez would mean a return to corruption.

Opinion polls also show that Abinader’s Modern Revolutionary Party is bound for a majority in Congress.

The party won 120 of 150 mayor’s posts in February municipal elections, considered a litmus test ahead of the general vote.

More than eight million people are registered to vote.

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Polls open at 7:00 am local time (1100 GMT), with results due Sunday night.

TAGS: Dominican Republic, Elections, Haiti

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