Dominican Republic Approves Law Allowing Medina to Run in 2016

Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina will be eligible to run for re-election next year under a constitutional change approved by the Caribbean nation’s lower congressional chamber Tuesday.

The law modifies the 2010 constitution and adopts a U.S.- style election system that allows for two consecutive presidential terms and limits presidents to a total of eight years. Current law prohibits consecutive terms. The measure passed both the House of Deputies and Senate with a two-thirds majority. It will go to the president’s office and before a joint session of Congress within 15 days for final approval.

Medina’s popularity soared as the Dominican economy grew faster than any other country in Latin America last year -- expanding 7.36 percent -- helping him stay on track to reach a goal of creating 400,000 new jobs by 2016. However, the constitutional change split support in his Dominican Liberation Party.

“Medina is still a strong candidate and in this scenario he will have the advantage of the incumbency,” said Cesar Arias, director at the Latin American Sovereigns Group for Fitch Ratings.

A May poll of 1,014 Dominican voters conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland showed Medina’s approval rating slipping to 68 percent from 74 percent in March and the favorable rating of the Dominican Liberation Party falling to 53 percent from 60 percent. The poll had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

‘Policy Continuity’

Medina has pushed for increased foreign investment in tourism, construction and mining while spending heavily on large-scale public works projects, such as an underground subway system and new highways. The central bank expects the economy to expand around 6 percent this year.

“While a second term for President Medina could reinforce policy continuity, the debate exemplifies the changing nature of institutions in the DR,” Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Manuel Orozco wrote in a May 20 note detailing S&P’s decision to boost the country’s credit rating one level to BB-, three steps below investment grade. “The constitution was only changed to abolish consecutive re-election in 2010.”

Before the congress took up the law, former President Leonel Fernandez, under whose administration the current constitution was passed, was widely expected to run for a fourth term in 2016. In a nationally televised address May 25, Fernandez said a change to the constitution should require a popular referendum.

“I am not in favor of amending the Constitution with the sole purpose of enabling a presidential election,” he said.

Medina, 63, is a career politician and former president of the House of Deputies. He lost a run for president in 2000 before winning the office in 2012.

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