• Elections. Dominican Republic calls for change in the polls under the threat of coronavirus

His name is Luis Abinader and he is called to star in a historic feat in the Dominican Republic. This politician and businessman has fought in recent months against the sacred cows of local politics and also against the dreaded coronavirus. To the former, facing them with a speech of change and against corruption, pushed by the weariness of the people. The second, fighting against him with his wife, also infected, and with several of his daughters. A battle from which all of them emerged victorious.

"It is a hard disease, but I faced it with strength and faith in God that it was going to win," confessed the candidate during the campaign, almost always virtual. A disease as hard as its rivals, who at first have succumbed to the wave of change that seemed unstoppable for months.

The first electoral results confirm this, with 20% of the votes counted. Abinader, a Social Democratic candidate and founder of the dissident Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), leads the polls with 54.07% of the vote, which would give him a sufficient majority to be declared president-elect and without the need to call a second round. Abinader would need 50% to conquer the Dominican presidency.

In the second place appears the official Gonzalo Castillo, the one chosen by the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) to succeed Danilo Medina, the current president and main defeated at the polls after two legislatures at the head of the country. At 20% it only had 36.02% of the ballots.

Disinfection of ballot boxes during the elections, in Santo Domingo.STRAFP

Castillo already knew that the comeback was almost impossible, even the voters who met him in the morning at his electoral college reminded him of this when he sang the chorus of the fashionable merengue in the country: "They are leaving, they are leaving, they are leaving" .

The other sacred cow defeated yesterday is the almost eternal Leonel Fernández, three times president and leader of La Fuerza del Pueblo. This juggler of politics fails (with a scant 8.80%) like this in his last experiment in power, after leading 25 years ago one of those transformations only possible in tropical lands. The then leader of the Marxist PLD made a pact with the right-wing Joaquín Balaguer, successor to the dictator Leónidas Trujillo, to prevent the accession to power of the socialist Peña Gómez.

The advisers of the Spanish Izquierda Unida, already amazed at the massive rallies, were unable to explain to their bosses in Madrid what was happening on that Caribbean island.

The main challenges for the winner are managing the pandemic and the economic recovery of a country whose drop in GDP this year will be around 6%. The local economy depends on tourism, the remittances of its emigrants and the capacity for international financing.

It was a day marked by the presence of Covid in the country, at its moment of greatest impact on society. The record of contagions reached on Saturday, exceeding 37,000 total, scared the Dominican society, which has already buried 794 people because of the pandemic.

Precisely one of the recovered is the favorite candidate, 52, who has described to the media in his country how his family battle against the coronavirus was. "The first days were hard, until we lost our strength. It is a bothersome and uncomfortable disease," he said, while showing his belief that he did not get older and that he completed a "fast recovery" by not being a patient of high risk.

During the atypical election day there were also several violent incidents, the most serious in Santo Domingo. One person was killed and two others wounded during a politically motivated brawl at the Nuestra Señora del Carmen electoral college . At the closing of the polls, shootings were also reported in Barahona, a southern city near the border with Haiti.

Gonzalo Castillo, presidential candidate of the ruling Liberation Party, this Sunday in the elections.

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