Dominican president is favoured to win his fourth election

Dominican Republic's incumbent leader Danilo Medina is expected to win his fourth consecutive term in office.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Dominican presidential candidate for the May 15 election from the Democratic Liberation Party (PLD) Danilo Medina, greets supporters in Santo Domingo on May 12, 2016.

Dominican Republic's incumbent leader Danilo Medina is expected to get another chance at improving the situation of poverty and crime by winning the country's presidential election on Sunday.

If re-elected, it would be his fourth consecutive term in office.

The Dominican Republic's economy is on the rise thanks to the millions of dollars foreigners spend visiting the Caribbean tourist haven's luxury hotels and beaches. The economy grew seven percent last year, and inflation was at a measly 2.3 percent.

But 40 percent of the nation's 10 million residents are estimated to live in poverty and the unemployment rate is about 14 percent, according to government figures.

Critics complain that crime has worsened under Medina, and say that his party has been in power for too long.

Medina also faces allegations he has unfairly used electoral funds, and broad international criticism over policies that discriminate against the Dominican-born children of Haitian migrant workers.

Thousands of these Dominicans never received local identification, and cannot vote in their own country. They say his government has intentionally marginalised them for racist, economic and social reasons.

Nevertheless the 64-year old Medina is the most popular leader in Latin America. According to a survey by Mexican consultancy Mitofsky, Dominicans give him an 89 percent approval rating.

Medina's centrist PLD party has been in power for 12 years in the Spanish-speaking country, which shares the island of Hispaniola with its troubled neighbour, Haiti.

A landslide victory?

Surveys of voting intentions by pollsters such as Gallup indicate that Medina will get around 60 percent of the vote, enough to win the election outright with no runoff.

Medina's nearest rival, social democrat Luis Abinader, had 29 percent support, the survey showed.

Many of Medina's supporters tout the state of the economy, and improvements in education, as his major accomplishments.

Supporters of Dominican presidential candidate of the Democratic Liberation Party (PLD) for May 15 election, Danilo Medina (not framed), cheer at his passage in Santo Domingo on May 12, 2016.

When Medina was elected in 2012 he was supposed to be limited to one four-year stint as president. But he passed a reform in 2015 that has allowed him to run for re-election.

"We have two options here: democracy, or one-party dictatorship," said Abinader, a wealthy businessmen of Lebanese ancestry, at a recent public appearance in a working class neighbourhood.

On Saturday, vote monitors met with opposition members who complained that the president had an unfair campaign funds advantage, and that his party controls the government agencies that make key electoral decisions.

Medina shrugs off the criticism.

"Businessmen give more to the person who is going to win ... so now I have the privilege of being able to pay for more advertising time," the president said.

Some 6.7 million of the country's 10 million residents are eligible to vote for president. Also being elected are 32 senators, 190 lower house deputies, and local officials.

Polls will be open from 10:00 to 22:00 GMT on Sunday.