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 new 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) is the favourite to gain the most votes in the first 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 are the top candidates for president?

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

 Dominican opposition presidential candidate for the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) Luis Abinader


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 firm owned by his family which operates major tourism projects in the Dominican Republic.

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

Mr Abinader and his wife announced on 11 June that they had tested positive for coronavirus and he had to temporarily stop campaigning while 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 split in the governing Dominican Liberation Party, which has been in power for more than a decade.

Under the Dominican constitution, presidents are limited 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.

 Gonzalo Castillo speaks during a press conference  in 2017


Gonzalo CastilloSource: BBC Monitoring

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

But some of the voters who have in the past been loyal to the Dominican Liberation Party may switch allegiance to former president Leonel Fernández.

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

Leonel Fernandez speaking at a news conference


Leonel FernándezSource: BBC Monitoring

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

He has worked as a lawyer, 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 was hard to predict how voters would react on the day.

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