Dominican Republic has abolished its open-list system. Or has it?


While attempting to track down records of preferential votes in Dominican Republic congressional elections, I discovered something that will be of interest to many readers of this blog:

By resolution adopted by the Junta Central Electoral in 2010 the preference vote was eliminated. It is particularly interesting in that the resolution states that the electoral law does not specify the “modality of voting” and that the adoption of open lists for the 2002 election was a prior resolution of the JCE. I wonder how many countries using PR systems do not specify in their law what the list type can be.

The resolution gives as a reason for its decision that the preferential vote has been “traumatic” for the party system. It also states that “primaries” within the parties are sufficient.

Thus in the next elections, in May 2016, the DR is supposed to revert to closed-list PR. I can’t name offhand another case that has moved from open lists to closed. Am I forgetting some other case?

However, not so fast! While the Constitutional Tribunal upheld the JCE’s ruling in 2013, congress passed a law reestablishing the preferential vote. However, the president may not have signed it, as there is another news article from 2015 that says that the preference vote is under threat, and accuses the PLD (the president’s party) of wanting closed lists in order to cope with its own internal divisions. Thus, at the moment, I don’t think we can say what the system is going to be as of May.

So far, the DR has held three elections under open lists: 2002, 2006, and 2010; before that, lists were closed. There were no congressional elections in 2014, because they are resynchronizing them with future presidential elections, starting in 2016. In other words, the congress elected in 2010 was elected for a six-year term; this is also very unusual. Not very many countries have ever had six-year terms for their sole or first chamber, although in this case it is just a one-off. Apparently they need all this time to figure out what the electoral system is going to be!

And if anyone can find for me the record of preferential votes for losing as well as winning candidates in 2002 and 2006, I will be grateful. I obtained those from 2010, and I have winners only for the other two years. The JCE’s email address for public information now has “permanent fatal errors”.

7 thoughts on “Dominican Republic has abolished its open-list system. Or has it?

  1. I was saddened to see the US electoral college directly cited by the Constitutional Tribunal as evidence that democracies do not need to require direct votes for “delegates”.

    • Yes; good call. I meant directly from pure open to pure closed lists. Italy did it on the installment plan, so to speak.

      I figured someone might mention Greece, which does something close to such a change automatically when there is a second election soon after a previous one (as has been discussed on this blog). It is not quite a pure open list ordinarily, although it is pretty close. But the mandate for closed lists in an early election is just something built into their electoral law, and the next election (assuming it does not come up soon) will be (mostly) open again.

      I can’t think of cases that have made a change of law, going from open to closed. And, it is not yet clear to me if the DR will be doing it, either.

  2. I think it’s bizarre how the DR switched back to concurrent elections by lengthening the assembly’s term to 6 years – you’d think they would shorten it to 2.

    Don’t know if I’m a fan of making it concurrent, anyway.

    • Yes, it is very odd. I assume it was totally “political” to do that, rather than do a 2-year interim.

      They originally moved to the world’s only (as far as I know) exclusively midterm cycle after the 1994 crisis over the reelection (again) of Joaquin Balaguer. At that time, the parties made the deal to make Balaguer’s term two years, but allow the just-elected congress to sit for the full four. That was the cycle till 2010. Now it will be all concurrent, as it was through 1994.

      The 1994 crisis is also when they adopted two-round majority for subsequent presidential elections, replacing plurality.

  3. Algunas precisiones:
    1- La “anulación” del voto preferencial por la JCE fue algo puramente simbólico (o politico) pues el tipo de lista se establece para cada eleccion y ya esas habían pasado.
    2- El tipo de lista que utilizamos es cerrada y desbloqueada, que no es exactamente una lista “abierta”, en el sentido de que se puedan mezclar diferentes propuestas partidarias.
    3- Tal y como se señala en el post, el Congreso aprobó una ley estableciendo la lista cerrada y desbloqueada como el tipo de liista a ser utilizado en las elecciones congresuales.
    4- La unificación del calendario electoral fue posible sobre la base de la extensión del periodo congresual a seis años. Este fue un requisito que pusieron los legisladores para aprobar la reforma constitucional del 2010.

    José A. Aquino

    • Thank you very much, José. Muchísamas gracias (vease la pregunta abajo, por favor).

      Your points are very interesting and helpful. On your second point, this is a terminological confusion between Spanish and English. In English, “open list”/”lista abierta” means what you call “cerrada y desbloqueada” (closed and blocked; which would be redundant in English-language terminology). If it is permitted to vote across party lines (as now is the case in El Salvador and Honduras), we usually resort to French and call it “panachage”. However, I should remember to be clear when referring to Spanish-speaking countries’ electoral systems.

      José, yo tengo otras preguntas sobre datos electorales, pero ahora no sirve la dirección email “accessoinformacion” @ JCE. ¿Podría mandarle a Ud. mis preguntas?

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