The Dominican Republic is a presidential republic based on the system of representative democracy with a Head of State directly elected by the people every 4 years.
The president exercises executive power through a government directly appointed by him and he is the head of the three-armed forces present in the country: the army, the navy, and the air force. Congress, which manages the legislative branch, is made up of two houses of parliament, the House and the Senate, whose members are elected every 4 years. The Senate represents the Dominican provinces and is made up of 32 members, one for each province plus the representative of the Capital District who elects a senator. The Chamber of Deputies is made up of 190 representatives: 178 are elected proportionally by vote, 7 are the deputies abroad and 5 are chosen from among the parties without representation based on the number of votes. Then there is the judicial power entrusted to the Supreme Court at the national level, while the courts of appeal, the courts of first instance, and the justices of the peace deal with territorial justice.
There are about 15 parties that lead the country’s political life, although only three of these represent the majority. The Social-Christian Reformist Party (PRSC), in the centre-right, and the two heirs of the Dominican Revolutionary Party which died out in the 1990s: the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) and the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), both in the centre-left.
The 2020 elections registered the victory of the PRM with the candidate Luìs Abinader. This was a remarkable event in the political life of the country since the undisputed domination of the PLD that had governed for 20 of the last 24 years has now been supplanted. Among the factors that led to this change of pace is undoubtedly the international Odebrecht scandal, which gave rise to the demonstrations against corruption that took the name of ‘Marcha Verde’. Odebrecht S.A. is the leading Brazilian multinational in the sector of infrastructural development and the chemical industry, with significant investments also in the energy sector. The company (established in 1944) from Salvador of Bahia was able to establish itself on a global level also using the tested system of paying bribes for the achievement of important tenders.
The scandal broke in 2017 and drove many Dominicans into the streets to denounce corruption and rampant impunity, cronyism, and continuity in the management of power in the hands of the party that had governed without interruption for about 16 years.
The movement, in which the middle class also participated, intended to unite different associations and organizations, urban and rural, alternating national, regional, and local events over time. The protests found a new impetus in January 2020, following the interruption of the electoral process concerning the renewal of local offices, as a result of the non-functioning of the automated voting system, introduced for the first time on that occasion.
From an international point of view, the country experiences periodic disputes with Haiti generated by migration issues and illicit trafficking along the border. Nonetheless, it has a strong commercial link which makes the neighbouring country its second largest export market.
The Dominican Republic enjoys a highly privileged relationship with the United States, a bond that has been reinvigorated on several occasions over the years. Indeed, the country has contributed a significant military contingent to the US mission in Iraq. In addition, joint strategies for security and the fight against drug trafficking were agreed and the CAFTA-DR free trade agreement (Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement) was concluded in 2004.
In 2009 the United States supported the Dominican Republic in negotiating with the International Monetary Fund to receive the disbursement of loans and insisted that the debt agreement existing between the Paris Club and the Dominican Republic be renegotiated in favour of the latter (2004). Currently, more than 2 million Dominicans reside in the United States. US bilateral aid to the Dominican Republic in 2021 totalled $30.75 million in 2021, of which approximately $23.3 million is for global health.
Despite the intense ties with the United States, in 2018 the country increased diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, recognizing it only and exclusively as ‘legitimate China’. This follows an offer from the Chinese side of 3.1 billion dollars, to be invested in infrastructure projects, and in particular for the construction of a new expressway and a new natural gas thermoelectric plant. It would seem, however, that although President Abinader intends to continue promoting and developing trade between the two countries, at the same time he is not in favour of entrusting the Chinese counterpart with investments for the construction of strategic works, such as ports and infrastructure.In terms of energy, Venezuela plays an important role in supplying the country. In 2005, an agreement was signed between the two states within Petrocaribe, aimed at ensuring the supply of Venezuelan oil at advantageous prices. (Open Photo: Santo Domingo National Palace. (CC BY-SA 2.0/ Jean-Marc Astesana)