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Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change their Government
The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully through periodic elections, and citizens exercised this right in practice in generally free and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage, most recently in congressional elections in May 2002.
The President and all members of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies are elected freely on 4-year cycles by secret ballot, as well as mayors and city councils. There is universal adult suffrage; except that active duty police and military personnel may not vote nor may they participate in partisan political activity. However, during the year senior military officers publicly expressed their support for President Mejia’s reelection.
Voting is restricted to documented citizens. The Central Electoral Board conducts all elections. In 2002, the legislature adopted constitutional reforms affecting the electoral system, including a provision that the President may be reelected one time.
Congress provided an open forum for the free exchange of views and debate. The main opposition party was the Dominican Liberation Party, which held 1 of 32 seats in the upper house and 42 of 150 seats in the lower house. A third major party, the PRSC of the late President Balaguer, held 2 seats in the upper house and 36 seats in the lower house. Various smaller parties were certified to contest provincial and national elections.
The nation had a functioning multiparty system. Opposition groups of the left, right, and center operated openly. The President exercised his authority through the use of the veto, through presidential decrees, and through influence as the leader of his party. The President appoints the governors of the 32 provinces.
Women and minorities confronted no serious legal impediments to political participation. By law, parties must reserve for women 33 percent of positions on their lists of candidates for city councils; in practice, the parties often placed women so low on the lists as to make their election difficult or impossible. A woman, Milagros Ortiz-Bosch, was Vice President and Minister of Education. One woman served in the 32-member Senate; women held 24 seats in the 150-member Chamber of Deputies; and a woman presided over the Chamber until August. Women served in a limited number of appointed positions, including two other cabinet positions. Women filled 5 of the 16 seats on the Supreme Court.
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