October 24, 2021

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Man shot dead in front of polling station

Police in the Dominican Republic say a man was shot dead in front of a polling station on Sunday as voters were taking part in the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

A fight had erupted between supporters of different parties outside a school in Santo Domingo, when one man pulled a gun and shot another man before fleeing, according to police.

Local media identified the victim as a member of the opposition Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), whose presidential candidate Luis Abinader had been considered the favourite.

Voters in the Dominican Republic had been voting elections overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic in which power could change hands for the first time in over a decade.

Opinion polls have predicted that PRM’s Abinader, a 52-year-old businessman, will defeat Gonzalo Castillo, the candidate of President Danilo Medina’s Dominican Liberation Party (PLD).

The third runner is former president Leonel Fernandez from the People’s Force (FP) party, who fell out with Medina and left the PLD after decades of membership.

The elections have been marked by the pandemic, with Abinader testing positive for the virus and few rallies being held.

Campaigning has focused on gestures to help those affected and on promises to revive the economy.

The elections were being held under safety measures, but critics nevertheless see them as a health gamble for the 7.5 million eligible voters.

The Dominican Republic, which shares Hispaniola island with Haiti, has confirmed more than 35,000 novel coronavirus cases, the highest number in the Caribbean.

The elections were initially due to be held on May 17, but were postponed because of the pandemic.

In power since 2012, Medina presided over high economic growth rates – an average of more than 6 per cent annually between 2014 and 2018 – before the pandemic hit.

However, the government’s popularity has been dented by corruption allegations and Medina’s previous attempts to seek an unconstitutional third term in office.

After 16 years in power, the PLD has also been weakened by years of rivalry between Fernandez and Medina. The party’s problems could diminish the chances of Castillo, 59, Medina’s former public works and communications minister.

There are few ideological differences between the two main parties, both of which are usually defined as being centre-left.

Abinader, who has recovered from the coronavirus, promises modernization, while Castillo advocates continuity and stability.

An eventual second round would take place on July 26. Voters will also elect 190 deputies and 32 senators.