Decades after Trujillo's dictatorship
(1930–1961), political life in the Dominican Republic
was dominated by his patron Joaquín Balaguer, with Juan
Bosch as his eternal opponent. Democratization began in
the 1970s. From 1996, a new generation of politicians
took over. PLD's Leonel Fernández was president for a
total of twelve years, with a break in 2000-2004.
In 1961, the 30-year Trujillo dictatorship fell and
the following year, presidential elections were held.
Leftist Juan Bosch of the Dominican Revolutionary Party
(PRD) won, but after only seven months in the
presidential post, he was overthrown in a military coup
and replaced by a right-wing junta. When PRD supporters
tried to put down the junta in an armed uprising in
1965, civil war broke out. The US intervened with more
than 20,000 Marines, the fighting was stopped and a
temporary government ruled the country until new
elections were held in 1966.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Dominican Republic. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
The presidential election was won by Joaquín Balaguer
who was president for a period also under Trujillo's
patronage. Balaguer came to dominate politics for 30
years. He controlled the military as well as persecuted
and killed dead PRD supporters and other opposites.
In 1973, a group of ex-Dominicans tried to ban
Balaguer, but most insurgents were killed by the army.
Juan Bosch was forced to leave the country for a time
but founded the same year the Dominican Liberation Party
Balagues who were re-elected in 1970 also won in
1974, partly through scare tactics. But in the late
1970s, the Dominican Republic took important steps
toward democratic rule and the military's power
diminished. In the 1978 and 1982 presidential elections,
the PRD managed to win. However, in the wake of the oil
crisis, the economy deteriorated and promised social
reforms could not be implemented. This led to popular
dissatisfaction and Balaguer regained power in the 1986
Balaguer was also re-elected in 1990 and 1994, but
after accusations of election fraud in 1994, the last
term of office was reduced to two years. The president
was 87 years old and almost blind. During his time in
power, he had created jobs in the public sector and
encouraged investment in tourism and industry, which led
to rapid growth. During the 1980s, however, the external
debt had doubled. In 1991, the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) granted the country a loan but at the same
time demanded cuts in government spending. Foreign debt
decreased after renegotiations and inflation fell. The
beginning of the 1990s was characterized by strong
economic recovery, but also by austerity.
New generation politician
In the 1996 presidential election, neither Balaguer
nor Bosch participated for the first time in 30 years.
In the election, PLD's candidate, 43-year-old Leonel
Fernández, now won. This generational shift in politics
led to hopes for political and economic reform.
Fernandez had privatized state companies and
attracted foreign capital to the country. Growth
increased further. But many of the government's
proposals were stopped in Congress, and protests erupted
as gasoline and transport prices were raised.
The Fernandez government had restructured the police
and judiciary and investigated bribery charges in state
companies. In 2000, four people, among them high-ranking
soldiers, were sentenced to 30 years in prison each for
the murder of a journalist. Balaguer was also called for
questioning. He did not appear, but that he was called
marked an important change in Dominican politics.
Balaguer, however, had great influence over politics and
social life until his death in 2002. He was seen by many
as a national father and received the epithet "the
father of Dominican democracy", despite his dictatorial
methods. The whole country mourned when he died.
The 1998 congressional election was a great success
for the PRD and in the presidential election two years
later the party's candidate Hipólito Mejía won. The PRD
also won big in both the congressional elections and the
local elections in 2002.
With Mejía, public sector wage spending increased
sharply, and the government took large loans to finance
public investment. The country's economy deteriorated
rapidly, which was also due to an economic downturn in
the US. Foreign debt rose, inflation soared,
unemployment rose and prices of many goods rose.
Electricity prices rose by 130 percent in six months,
while power outages became more and more common.
In March 2003, the country's second largest bank,
Banco Intercontinental (Baninter), went bankrupt under
scandalous circumstances. Extensive fraud and corruption
were discovered. The owner, who had stolen from his own
bank, was very close to the political elite. He had
provided Fernández, Mejía and other tops in the PLD and
PRD with precious gifts. The government decided to
guarantee the savers' deposits. The government's note
ended up with one fifth of the country's gross national
income, GNI. The scandal led to capital flight,
devaluation and inflation, and two more banks collapsed.
To counter the crisis, the government sought help from
At the same time, unemployment rose, prices soared
and the constant power cuts continued (see Natural
Resources, Energy and the Environment). Several people
were killed and many injured in connection with protest
actions and strikes.
The economic crisis and the popular dissatisfaction
contributed to Hipólito Mejía being supported only by
one third of the voters in the 2004 presidential
election. The PLD's Leonel Fernández won the first round
and returned for a second term as president. Fernández
lowered electricity subsidies for households and passed
a tax reform.
In the 2006 congressional elections, PLD won big and
the party got its own majority for the first time in
both chambers. The economy improved and in the 2008
presidential election Fernández was re-elected in the
first round, with close to 54 percent of the vote.
After the election, the president promised power to
fight poverty and unemployment. However, the global
financial crisis of 2008 worsened conditions, with high
oil and food prices and lower amounts of money sent by
Dominicans abroad. The country still managed relatively
well during the crisis, which favored the government and
in the 2010 congressional elections the PLD further
strengthened its position. Foreign observers, however,
criticized the fact that the PLD had used state funds
for its own election campaign, and the PRD claimed that
irregularities had occurred.
In the autumn of 2009, constitutional amendments had
been adopted following a settlement between PLD and PRD.
Among other things, the rules for re-election of
President (see Political system) were changed and a very
strict abortion legislation was adopted (see Social
The constitution came into force in 2010 and the
members elected this year to the congress were given a
six-year mandate rather than a four-year mandate.
According to the new rule in the constitution, Leonel
Fernández was not allowed to run for election in 2012.
He had been president for a total of twelve years. Prior
to the election, there were pressures within the party
to make a new constitutional change, to enable Fernández
to stand. But he contradicted himself, and instead was
aiming for a return in 2016. However, his wife Margarita
Cedeño de Fernández was appointed vice president. Many
Dominicans saw it as a way for the ex-president to keep
his finger on the game.
The PLD had a headwind and economist Danilo Medina,
who was running as the party's presidential candidate
instead of Fernández, already won the first round of the
main opponent, ex-president Hipólito Mejía. The election
results were questioned by the PRD, which accused the
government of buying votes and other forms of cheating.
Medina's victory was largely based on Fernández's
successful stabilization of the economy after the severe
crisis in the early 2000s. PRD's choice of candidate
made its way: Hipólito Mejía was seen by many Dominicans
as the main responsible for the crisis. The PRD was also
characterized by internal fragmentation. After the
election, Mejía accused PLD of abusing power and voting
and claimed that PLD used state funds in its election
The PLD was also assumed to benefit from the fact
that the party had its own majority in both chambers of
Congress - many voters feared a cumbersome political
deadlock if the president and Congress were to pull in
different directions for four years until the 2016