SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (ViaNews) – The very important and basic issue of how the internal elections in Dominican political parties and movements will be carried out is under heated debate in the country´s Lower House, after getting approved by the Upper House.

In the Senate, it still has to be debated by a special commission, even though it has been approved in principle. Reinaldo Pared Perez, the Senate Chairman, declared that the special designated commission for this matter would continue debating the issue.

According to Diario Libre, a Dominican Republic newspaper, Pared Perez stated that members of Congress should remember “this commission does not have deliberative powers, as it’s simply an institutional body and not a bicameral commission”, meaning obviously, that the Commission cannot regulate the mandate of how the primaries will be carried out.

According to the same newspaper, “the Congressional meeting was held in the Lower Chamber of Deputies with the participation of Ruben Maldonado, the President of the Chamber of Deputies. Also there, were spokespersons for different parties with representation in Congress, along with hardliners of the Danilistas” and “Leonilistas” (political allies of President Danilo Medina and ex-President Leonel Fernandez). Still, in the end, it was impossible to reach an agreement regarding the format for the primary elections”.

President Medina´s backers maintained their position that the primaries should be carried out in accordance to the format approved by the Central Electoral Board (JCE) also called as “open” primaries. Conversely, supporters of the ex-president Leonel Fernandez are in favor of “closed” primaries, as well as the opposition parties, Diario Libre reports.

Margarita Cedeño, the current Vice-president, and wife of former president Fernadez cleared up the main differences between the two in an article published in the Listin Diario on June 8, 2018. Cedeño stated that: “The formats under discussion are the closed and open primaries. The closed alternative allows candidacies from all members of a political party. The “open” primaries allow all registered voters to participate in the internal primaries, including members of other parties. Also, the “semi-closed” primaries which allow participation of those which are not members of any party, or the “semi-open” primaries which allow candidacies of those who are members of only one party”.

What’s really going on?

Diario Libre states that each one is blaming the other:”Se culpan entre sí”.
The speaker of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), Alfredo Pacheco, stated that “The Law that regulates political parties is held up because of positions inside of the Dominican Liberation Party, PLD, and warned that he would not be the “joker” of any of them”.

José Altagracia Gonzalez, of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD), the original Juan Bosch party, said that “the possibilities of approval of a political Party Law “have ended”. Mr. Gonzales stressed that “it’s sad that we are participating in the funeral of the Law of Political Parties.”

In a recent decision of the Superior Electoral Tribunal of the Dominican Republic, it was declared that the “members of a party are the ones called on to elect their candidates during an internal convention with their own list of candidates.” It added that to “accept the contrary is to provoke that the political parties act within a pattern of vulnerability which would ensure the alteration, the ends, and purposes, for which they were conceived.”

On the issue of government interference in the primaries, the Listin Diario, a Dominican Republic newspaper reports:
“In 2005 the Supreme Court sentenced that the political system must maintain its original private nature”, meaning that “the State must not intervene beyond its powers of regulation because even if it’s a public matter It’s not a State regulated function.” In other words, the State should not interfere.

The same newspaper reported that “the decision made by the political establishment on this matter shall define the immediate future of the political party system of the Dominican Republic. A wrong decision could push the parties toward self-destruction and, if the parties are weak, democracy will suffer.”

Beyond that, the debate overlaps into the matter of the including the population in the functioning of the political party system, especially the youth on which depends the future of the country.

What now?

On the matter, Margarita Cedeño added that “Each format has its advantages and disadvantages. In general, the closed primaries are more transparent, dynamizing their members in the internal life of their parties. In the case of the open primaries, they relieve the party of one of its principal functions, the recruitment of members due to the fact that it’s no longer necessary for the selection of candidates. Only four countries of the region have opted for this format: Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, and Honduras.”

El Nacional, a Dominican Republic newspaper, reported that “The discrepancies and discussions regarding the simultaneous primaries and the open candidates have been turned over to Congress. Last night´s decision by the Central Committee of the Dominican Liberation Party to clear the way for Congress to vote freely for the Law of Political Parties and Groups in the electoral activities.”

The key to the whole issues is as follows: The senators and congresspersons, and those who belong to groups responding to President Medina and ex-president Fernandez will now decide their votes according to the views of their leader.

As usual, that´s the way it always ends up.


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