Dominican Republic Developing a Democracy


Christopher Columbus created the first colony of Santo Domingo on Hispaniola island, which became the capital of the Spanish colonies in America. Until 1924, the Dominican Republic was repeatedly ruled by different countries, such as Spain, France, Haiti, and for short periods it was an independent and autonomous state. After that, the Dominican Republic is a sovereign state, but from 1930 to 1961, General Trujillo seized power and repressed any opposition, and killed thousands of people through ethnic cleansing (BBC, 2018). In 1965, a short civil war erupted between supporters of the newly elected president Gaviho and Loyalist military factions (“Dominican Republic”, 2018). The next election brings victory to Balaguer, who held the post for 20 years. However, he lost the election in 1978 to Fernandez because of Washington’s pressure and came back for another three and a half terms from 1986 to 1992 (“Dominican Republic”, 2018). The next elections were held according to democratic procedures, although the parties often accused each other of fraud.

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Today, the president is Danilo Medina Sanchez, who was re-elected in 2016 after amending the law on the impossibility of two presidential terms. In 2017 and 2018, large-scale protests erupted on the streets of the capital, in which people demanded the arrest of all corrupt officials involved in the Odebrecht case of 2017 (“Dominican Republic”, 2018). Thus, even the simple facts from the history of the Dominican Republic are enough to notice most of the barriers to building democracy in the country.

The Barriers to Building Democracy


The constant occupation and annexation of territories, as well as the transfer of power from one radical or dictatorial group to another, did not allow the formation of national unity in the country. Besides, during the dictatorship of Trujillo and at present, the population of Haitian origin is consistently discriminated against, which further aggravates conflicts both among the elite and the people (Freedom House, 2019). Consequently, a country that is divided by national and ethnic conflicts cannot fully form national unity.


The constant change of power was also the reason that impeded the construction of the state. Although the Dominican Republic was one of the colonies that first gained independence, it repeatedly fell under the jurisdiction of other countries due to its weakness of defense and the actions of politicians. From the 1930s, the Republic formally remained independent, but the radical mood of each new head of government made it necessary to form a state from scratch again and again.

Participation of Citizens

Formally, citizen participation is unlimited, but naturalization laws took citizenship from many residents of the Dominican Republic as they have ethnic roots in Haiti, so they cannot participate in the country’s political life (Freedom House, 2019). LGBTQ+ representatives also cannot work in some governmental sectors. Also, although the media are not formally limited by censorship, there are frequent cases of murder of journalists who wanted to uncover topics related to the government.

Power Distribution

The distribution of power is also unfair since the president has broad capabilities, which is beneficial for him. Some elements of the electoral system are useful for large parties, while the opposition is less likely to join the parliament, which often provides almost a one-party government.


Representative democracy is a more suitable system for the Dominican Republic since it reduces the risk of fraud. This type of democracy guarantees the great responsibility of the elected representatives to the people. It also reduces the likelihood of manipulating the public consciousness or the bribery of the electorate. In the Dominican Republic, steps to tighten control over the electoral system are necessary as many rulers and government representatives abuse their power and participate in corruption schemes before and after the election. A semi-presidential republic will also be a more appropriate form of government as it will provide more control and distribution of power between the president and parliament. However, until the country defeats corruption and crime, any form of government will not be useful because people with power will adapt to the political system and laws to their needs.

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BBC (2018). Dominican Republic country profile BBC News. Web.

Dominican Republic – Politics (2019). Global Security. Web.

Freedom House (2019). Dominican Republic. Freedom in the World 2019. Web.

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