Electoral strategy

Wednesday, April 24, 1996

By Stephen Marks

The Dominican Revolutionary Forces (FR) and the Camaa&241;ista Revolutionary Union are calling for a boycott of the national elections in May.

The current president, Joaquín Balaguer, has been in power for 22 of the last 30 years, and only circumstances beyond his control prevented him from rigging and "winning" the 1978 and 1982 elections.

The social democratic Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), which had power from 1978 to 1986, turned out to be as corrupt as Balaguer and started to rigorously apply economic austerity. In 1984 the army fired on 600 protesters who were opposing a 200% price rise in basic foodstuffs and medicines, killing 112 of them.

The FR is not supporting the coalition of small right-wing and left parties which has formed around the PRD's Pe&241;a Gómez for the May elections. While respecting Gómez's left-wing origins, and his stature as a leader of the Socialist International, the FR believes that it is self-defeating to be involved in an electoral system which is totally corrupt and corrupting. (It is said that even such expert ballot stuffers as the Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party have studied Balaguer's methods.)

The FR also points to the weakness of the PRD in that it was incapable of defending the victory of Gómez in 1994, and to the sorry experience of the past PRD presidents, Guzmán and Blanco.

There is a massive lack of confidence in the electoral system. While 20% of the electorate abstains out of apathy or disinterest, 30% consciously boycotts elections for political reasons. With only half the electorate voting, the FR maintains that its call for a boycott is a form of participation, not abstentionism.

Balaguer used outright fraud and thuggery to win the 1990 and 1994 elections. Although not a candidate in the May elections (for the first time in 30 years), Balaguer is manoeuvring to stay in office. By preparing another electoral fraud, he hopes to be able to step in as a "peacemaker" to settle the conflict between the candidates which will result.

The FR believes that such a scenario could cause uproar among the Dominican people and that this will provide revolutionaries with a mass hearing.