Dominican Republic votes in election postponed over virus

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The election had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic

Voters in the Dominican Republic are choosing a fresh president on Sunday, in elections postponed from May due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Opinion polls suggest Luis Abinader of the opposition Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) may be the favourite to achieve the most votes in the initial round.

To win outright, the top candidate has to receive more than 50% of the votes.

Dominicans will also be choosing 190 members of the chamber of deputies and 32 senators.

Who would be the top candidates for president?

Opinion polls have consistently put Luis Abinader in front of all other candidates.

AFP

Luis AbinaderSource: BBC Monitoring

Mr Abinader, whose family is of Lebanese descent, is a US-educated economist.

He is executive president of Grupo Abicor, a strong owned by his family which operates major tourism projects in the Dominican Republic.

He ran for president in 2016 and made it in to the second round, but lost to outgoing president Danilo Medina, who beat him by very nearly 27 percentage points.

Mr Abinader and his wife announced on 11 June that they had tested positive for coronavirus and he previously to temporarily stop campaigning while that he recovered.

The Dominican Republic is one of the worst-affected countries in the Caribbean, with more than 35,000 confirmed cases and more than 775 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Mr Abinader surged ahead in the opinion polls after a separate in the governing Dominican Liberation Party, which has been in power for higher than a decade.

Under the Dominican constitution, presidents are restricted to two consecutive terms in office. That means President Medina, who has been in power since 2012, is not able to stand.

He has given his backing to the former minister of public works, Gonzalo Castillo.

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Gonzalo CastilloSource: BBC Monitoring

Mr Castillo is just a wealthy businessman who studied business administration in Canada and who has founded a number of organizations over the years, including aviation firm Helidosa and air ambulance service Aeroambulancia.

But a few of the voters that have in days gone by been loyal to the Dominican Liberation Party might switch allegiance to former president Leonel Fernández.

Mr Fernández, who had been president from 1996 to 2000 and again from 2004 to 2012, chose to run in the election for the People’s Force party, which he has been leading since he left the Dominican Liberation Party.

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Leonel FernándezSource: BBC Monitoring

He studied law in Santo Domingo, the administrative centre of the Dominican Republic, but spent much of his youth in New York.

He spent some time working as legal counsel, university professor and author.

Opinion polls have him in third place behind Mr Abinader and Mr Castillo.

However pollsters acknowledged that, with the elections being held under unprecedented circumstances amid the continuing pandemic, it absolutely was hard to predict how voters would react on the day.

All candidates had to severely curtail their campaigning because of the virus, however the president of the central electoral board assured voters that polling stations had received hygiene kits and that the world was “ready” for the elections.

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