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OAS Electoral Observation Mission Recognizes Successful Dominican Elections in the Context of a Pandemic

  July 7, 2020

The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS), under the leadership of former President of Chile Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, salutes the civic commitment of the Dominican people who attended the polls in the midst of complex and exceptional circumstances in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Likewise, it recognizes the extraordinary effort of the electoral authorities in the successful organization of the elections, the third electoral process in the country this year.

The Mission wishes to congratulate President-elect Luis Abinader and Vice-President-elect Raquel Peña for their victory, along with the congressional authorities also elected. The Mission also highlights the democratic maturity with which the different political actors recognized the results in a timely manner. These attitudes of political responsibility make our democracies stronger, at a time when they must face great economic and social challenges.

The organization of these electoral processes represented a challenge for the authorities. This challenge was shared by the OAS, which has been supporting the election cycle for more than 10 months. In 2020, the Organization has deployed three electoral observation missions in the Dominican Republic and an audit that identified the causes that prevented the correct implementation of automated voting in municipal elections suspended in February.

For this particular election, the OAS Mission arrived in the country on June 29 and implemented a face-to-face and virtual methodology, due to travel restrictions and border closings. The Mission was made up of 73 international experts and observers of 18 nationalities, of whom 57 were deployed in Dominican territory, 6 observed the elections in Miami, Madrid and New York, while the rest worked remotely from different countries.

Following the health protocols established by the government, all the members of the Mission who traveled to the Dominican Republic from abroad underwent Covid-19 tests and verified that they were free of the virus prior to their arrival in the country. Likewise, before the start of the Mission, a series of measures were implemented, including the delivery of personal protection materials, the establishment of work spaces that allowed for physical distancing, the and the conditioning of vehicles for travel, among others.

Election Day

The Mission highlights that all the voting centers opened in the national territory and had the necessary electoral material for the start of the vote. It also appreciates the effort of the members of the polling stations and the delegates of political parties, as well as the security forces, who worked tirelessly for long hours, with the usual challenges of an election as well as the additional measures needed to prevent contagion.

The voting centers visited by the Mission had disinfectant products, face masks, gloves and cleaning wipes, as well as instructions to maintain distance between the voters inside. However, outside the venues there were significant crowds of people who did not comply with physical distancing guidelines.

Election day passed in an orderly and calm manner, with isolated incidents of violence and claims of delays in opening the voting centers. The Mission regrets that in one of these clashes a delegate of the Partido Revolucionario Moderno (PRM) was killed and two other people were wounded and hopes that justice will be done.

OAS observers confirmed vote buying in the vicinity of the electoral precincts by various political forces. The Mission emphatically reiterates that this has been a constant practice in Dominican electoral processes, which has not been sufficiently combated. The Mission insists on the importance of taking forceful measures to eradicate this behavior, the elimination of which is a shared responsibility of the administrative, police and judicial authorities, as well as of the political actors and supporters themselves, and of the general public.

The voting centers began to close at 05:00 pm and the counting of votes at the observed tables proceeded normally. At 08:30 pm the Chair of the Central Electoral Board, Julio César Castaños Guzmán, began the transmission of the results, giving the citizens the data in a fluid manner through different platforms.

The civic celebration that took place yesterday provides an opportunity for the Dominican Republic to eradicate pernicious practices that have been present for many years in its electoral political life. Vote buying, the giving of gifts, governmental political participation at all levels, are activities that generate inequality in the race and that happened in light of the institutional weakness of the electoral prosecution, which lacks legal, financial and human mechanisms to be able to deal with these behaviors.

In addition to the above, the Mission highlights the uncertainty regarding the number of delegates that the parties or alliances could accredit before the polling stations and the conditions for the voting of the people who were in line at the end of the day. The Mission considers that these issues should be clear and not be the subject of controversy days before an electoral process.

In the coming days, the Mission will release its preliminary report, which will include a substantive analysis of key aspects of the electoral process, such as electoral organization and technology, women's political participation, electoral justice, and political financing. The final report, which will be submitted to the OAS Permanent Council, will include all the observations and recommendations of the three missions deployed in the country. These recommendations, added to the work carried out by the audit team, will be a tool of great technical value for the improvements, operational and legislative, that the Dominican electoral system demands.

The experience lived in the Dominican Republic is essential for other countries in the region that are also struggling to keep their electoral processes underway in the midst of a pandemic. Only in a few weeks will we know if the measures implemented were sufficient and timely.

Finally, it should be noted that the missions deployed in the country during this year have been possible thanks to the contributions of Germany, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Korea, Spain, the United States, France, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands and Panama.

Reference: E-071/20