Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago 2010
Two elections in the Caribbean will be covered in this post, both of them legislative elections.
The Dominican Republic’s 183-seat Chamber of Deputies and 32-seat Senate (1 senator for each province and the capital) were up for re-election on May 16. The legislature is not a big deal given the nation’s presidential system, nor was it much contested given the incumbent President’s popularity. President Leonel Fernández, in office since 2004 (having served between 1996 and 2004 as well) and re-elected in 2008, remains wildly popular and transfers his popularity to his party, the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). Although Fernández is a pupil of sorts of former Dominican leftist leader Juan Bosch, the PLD under his rule has shifted to the centre or the centre-right. It sits with conservative parties in the Central American Parliament, it supported CAFTA and other rather centre-right economic policies. It remains, however, nominally left-wing and a member of the Foro de São Paulo grouping of South American leftist parties. The PLD was Bosch’s party, founded in 1973 after a split in the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). The PRD is more markedly left-wing, though obviously the differences between the PLD and PRD are often about personalities. The PRD has done poorly since the unpopular presidency of Hipólito Mejía, who presided over financial scandals and increased corruption, although corruption remains a major problem in the country. On the right is the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC), the party of Joaquín Balaguer, likely the second most well-known Dominican leader after Rafael Trujillo. Balaguer, who held the presidency three separate times, was generally, though not always, an ally of the US supported by the Church and businesses, and his early reformism was quickly transformed into corruption, authoritarianism and conservatism. Fernández was re-elected to a second non-consecutive term in 2004, defeating Mejía in a landslide (Mejía had changed the rules allowing re-election) and defeated the PRD’s candidate to win re-election in 2008. Here are the results, as communicated by the Junta Central Electoral:
PLD and allies (incl. PRSC) 54.62% winning 105 deputies and 31 senators
PRD and allies 41.89% winning 75 deputies and 0 senators
PRSC 1.46% winning 3 deputies and 1 senator
Slightly misleading numbers as the PRSC was in fact allied with the PLD in all but one province, La Altagracia (where it won its sole Senate seat). Without alliances, the JCE reports that the PLD alone won 41.6% and the PRSC won 6.2% overall. All other parties are minor and irrelevant.
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago, a major island in the south Caribbean, held a general election on May 24 for all 41 seats in the House of Representatives, whose members are elected through classic FPTP, a remnant of British rule, along with the country’s Westminster system, although it is a republic.
The father of independence, Eric Williams and his People’s National Movement (PNM), dominated politics between 1956 and 1981. The PNM, of which current Prime Minister Patrick Manning is a member, has traditionally found most support with black Afro-Trinidadians, and the PNM has been a usually conservative and economically right-wing party. Unemployment and labour conflicts during Williams’ tenure has helped the rise of parties on the left, mostly supported by Indo-Trinidadians. Blacks and Indians make up around 40-45% each of the country’s population.
The main opposition is now the United National Congress, a social democratic party founded in 1988 from a split in the then-ruling National Alliance for Reconstruction. The UNC’s ancestor is the United Labour Front, which used to be the main opposition to the Williams PNM in the latter years of his rule. The UNC formed government between 1995 and 2001. Ahead of this election, the UNC formed the ‘People’s Partnership’ with the Congress of the People and the Tobago Organization of the People – Tobago is historically the ‘small sidelined’ island of the country, like Barbuda, Nevis or Rodrigues in their respective countries. Here are the results:
UNC and allies 59.81% winning 29 seats (21 UNC, 6 COPE, 2 TOP/ +14)
PNM 39.5% winning 12 seats (-14)
Still in the region, voters in Suriname on May 25 elected an opposition alliance including former dictator Dési Bouterse (a wanted drug dealer), defeating the incumbent New Front led by soon-to-be ex-President Ronald Venetiaan. Dési Bouterse ruled the country unofficially for most of the 80s as military dictator of an officially socialist republic, and cracked down in 1982 on internal opponents, killing a number of them in a case which remains open to this day. He was also sentenced to 11 years in jail in the Netherlands for drug trafficking and the Netherlands has an arrest warrant for him, which prevents his exit from the country, although he cannot be prosecuted as a former head of state. Dési Bouterse’s Mega Combinatie won 23 seats against 14 for the New Front, while other parties won the remaining 15 seats out of the 52 at stake. Dési Bouterse is already a candidate for the indirect presidential ballot in July, where a two-thirds majority is required. Venetiaan is retiring.