Monday, October 20, 2008

Dominicans ponder constitutional reform

Dominican lawmakers are now embroiled in a political battle about the process of constitutional reform, which President Leonel Fernandez has for years called "essential" to remove the country from gridlock.

The proposed reforms would modernize the courts, clarify domestic and economic policy items, and perhaps most controversially, affect the term limits of the presidency.

Some opponents consider the reform unnecessary, citing numerous previous efforts and the young age (6 years) of the current
constitution. They also believe that any reforms must take place in a constitutional assembly, to which the Fernandez administration has not agreed.

Opponents from the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) claim that the proposed reforms, now being debated in congress, threaten the democratic process in the Dominican Republic and constitute a power grab by the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). In 2002, when the PLD was in power, the constitution was amended by a process of executive constitutional review (not through the legislature) to allow for consecutive re-election (which permitted Leonel Fernandez to win his current term through 2012). PRD opponents who believe a constitutional assembly is now called for, however, believe that the reforms on the table, contrary to those in 2002, represent a new constitution altogether.

The jury is still out on which side has the law on their side, but given that the supreme court justices are said to be more closely aligned with the PLD, it likely that President Fernandez will ultimately get his way.

Sources: Listin Diario, El Caribe, Nuevo Diario, Dominican Today, DR1

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