SANTO DOMINGO – Dominicans are divided on whether President Leonel Fernandez, now at the halfway point of his second consecutive four-year term, should seek re-election in 2012.
Members of the president’s PLD party argue that he is the only politician in the country capable of keeping the Dominican Republic on the right track.
“Dominican democracy would lose its way and the economy would sink if President Fernandez decides to interrupt his government tenure in 2012,” PLD Sen. Adriano Sanchez Roa said Monday.
Fernandez, 56, was not very forthcoming about his intentions when a reporter asked him several months ago about the possibility of a re-election bid.
“When the time comes, the public will be the ones to decide,” the president said.
But it’s not just a question of politics.
Last year, Congress passed – and Fernandez signed – a constitutional amendment banning immediate presidential re-election. Some jurists say the change does not apply to the incumbent because he was elected under the old rules, but others disagree.
If Fernandez were to run again and win in 2012, it would be his fourth term, as he previously served as head of state from 1996-2000.
Civic organizations, unions and grassroots groups have joined the the main opposition PRD in blasting talk of another term for Fernandez.
PRD leader Miguel Vargas Maldonado, who lost to Fernandez in the 2008 election, describes efforts to keep the incumbent in power as a “calamity.” Other critics say Dominicans are “sick and tired” of corruption, broken promises, power blackouts, declining standards of living and growing crime.
Seemingly indifferent to the debate, Fernandez has spent the past few weeks inaugurating various public works projects across the country.
Supporters of a third consecutive term for the incumbent have been present at every event.
“Listen to me, I’m also the people. Leonel 2012,” reads a pro-Fernandez poster seen around Santo Domingo, while the image of first lady Margarita Cedeño appears on billboards in the capital and on provincial highways.
In a meeting Monday with PLD senators, President Fernandez urged them to consolidate democracy and the rule of law in the Dominican Republic.
Noting the PLD’s solid majorities in both houses of Congress, he told the senators the party has no excuses for failure. EFE