Dominican Republic president celebrates apparent victory

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — President Danilo Medina celebrated Monday after winning what appeared to be a resounding re-election victory in the Dominican Republic, with preliminary results showing he easily had enough votes to avoid a runoff with his closest competitor.

Final results were not expected until Tuesday, but the Central Electoral Commission reported that Medina had 62 percent of votes with ballots from nearly 60 percent of polling stations counted. His nearest opponent, businessman Luis Abinader, had 35 percent.

A senior official in the Medina administration, Jose Ramon Peralta, said on Twitter that the president appeared to have won the highest percentage of the vote in the country’s democratic history.

Medina celebrated with a victory rally Monday evening.

“The people favor that the country continue on the path that we started on in 2012,” he said.

Participation in Sunday’s election was about 70 percent, with voters in the country and at expatriate polling sites in the U.S. and around the world choosing all 222 seats in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies as well as local offices.

Polls going into the election had pointed to Medina as the likely presidential winner. With this victory, the Dominican Liberation Party will have won the four straight presidential elections.

It appeared the party maintained the control of Congress that it has had for a decade.

Opposition candidates criticized electoral authorities for starting to release preliminary results, which had not gone through a mandatory hand count for verification, as some people still waited to cast ballots after voting was extended for an hour because of problems that delayed the process at many polling stations.

Many people had to wait hours to vote, largely because of problems with the deployment of new technology to identify voters by their fingerprints in this country of more than 10 million people.

The electoral commission blamed delays on the resignations of 3,000 technical assistants and other poll workers a day before the election. Replacements had to be trained swiftly. Officials did not disclose why the workers walked off the job before the vote.

The incumbent benefited from a weak and divided opposition and an economy that grew 7 percent last year, better than any other country in Latin America or the Caribbean. He also has drawn support for increased funding for social programs that have strong popular support. Medina’s government has built about 2,500 new schools, lengthened the school day to provide more classes and promoted literacy and vocational training for adults.

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