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Dominican Republic vote to go ahead despite coronavirus threat

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Voters in the Dominican Republic are set to defy rising coronavirus infections to choose a new president in an election that could end 16 years of unbroken rule by the centre-left Dominican Liberation Party (PLD).  

Opposition candidate Luis Abinader is favourite in Sunday’s election, having taken a commanding lead in opinion polls despite being forced to abandon his campaign after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Abinader, a 52-year-old businessman, recovered sufficiently to close out his campaign at a rally on Wednesday.

“Change is coming and the PLD is going,” he promised a crowd of hundreds of his supporters, allowed to gather after the government eased a lockdown.  

A Gallup poll gives Abinader, from the opposition Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) more than 53 percent of voter intentions, 20 points ahead of the ruling PLD party’s Gonzalo Castillo. Another poll gives Abinader a slimmer 12 point margin.  

Castillo, a former public works minister, is standing for the PLD because outgoing President Danilo Medina cannot seek another term under the Republic’s constitution.

Dominican republic election

Ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) Gonzalo Castillo (left); opposition Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) candidate Luis Abinader [File: Erika Santelices/AFP]

“The Dominican people should remember that a president is elected in one day, but the consequences last for four years,” Castillo told a crowd of his supporters in the town of Monte Plata.

Former president Leonel Fernandez, 66, trails in third place with 8.6 percent. Fernandez ruled for a total of three four-year terms between 1996 and 2012.  

Three other candidates are contesting the presidency from minor parties. 

Election shaped by corruption and pandemic

The Dominican Republic has a poor record on corruption, ranking 137th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s corruption index.

It has been particularly key issue in this election cycle after protests in recent years over the involvement of some local officials in a Latin America-wide fraud scandal involving the Brazilian construction Odebrecht. The corporate giant has admitted to doling out $92m in bribes in the Domincan Republic in exchange for winning public works contracts.  

Meanwhile, election’s campaigning has been unlike any other in the tourist-magnet Caribbean republic’s history, overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit the country’s population of 10 million hard.

The Republic – which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti – has registered more than 34,000 infections from the coronavirus, with more than 800 deaths, according to an AFP news agency tally. 

Luis Abinader presidential election

Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) candidate Luis Abinader is a favourite in Sunday’s election [File: Reuters]

The outbreak forced Medina’s government to declare a national lockdown, banning large public gatherings and shutting borders – a massive economic blow to one of the strongest growing economies in the region.

A state of emergency was lifted only this week as parties made a final drive for votes.

‘Come what may’

The election date has already been pushed back from May 17 but will go ahead “come what may” on Sunday, Julio Cesar Castanos, the president of the Central Electoral Board, has said. 

The authority’s advice to voters: “Put your mask on and get out and vote.”

Despite health protocols being put in place at polling stations, Health Minister Rafael Sanchez Cardenas said it would be “practically impossible” not to have news outbreaks of COVID-19.  

“We have to get beyond this line of 5th of July, hoping that there won’t be an overflow of cases and that we will be able to respond,” the minister said.  

The pandemic has already hit polling by the Republic’s 600,000 overseas voters – representing almost 8 percent of the electoral roll.  

Most live in the United States, Spain and Puerto Rico, where polling has been taking place. However, expatriates in Italy and Panama have not been authorised to vote because of coronavirus restrictions in place there.  

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Armenian Aggression

Azerbaijan negotiating on UNESCO Mission’s visit to liberated territories – minister

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By Trend

Azerbaijan is conducting negotiations on visit of UNESCO Mission to its territories liberated from Armenian occupation [in the 2020 Second Karabakh War], Minister of Culture Anar Karimov told journalists on Sept.25, Trend reports.

According to Karimov, UNESCO has been informed about the conditions of Azerbaijan and the technical details of the organization of the mission.

"Azerbaijan expects from UNESCO a fair and impartial position, the implementation of the mission in accordance with the mandate without politicizing this issue," he said. "Azerbaijan is interested in the implementation of this mission and expects the investigation of the facts of the destruction of cultural and historical monuments in Karabakh [by Armenia], as well as appropriate assessment of the facts by the international community."

Therefore, Azerbaijan has always been a supporter of this mission and expects UNESCO to treat this issue with the same scrupulousness, added the minister.

Following over a month of military action to liberate its territories from Armenian occupation from late Sept. to early Nov. 2020, Azerbaijan has pushed Armenia to sign the surrender document. A joint statement on the matter was made by the Azerbaijani president, Armenia's PM, and the president of Russia.

A complete ceasefire and a cessation of all hostilities in the zone of the Karabakh conflict were introduced on Nov. 10, 2020.

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result of the ensuing war, the Armenian Armed Forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts. The 1994 ceasefire agreement was followed by peace negotiations.

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Armenian Aggression

Int’l organizations should investigate Armenia’s environmental terror – MP

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By Trend

International organizations should thoroughly investigate the environmental terror committed by Armenia in previously occupied territories of Azerbaijan, the country’s MP Iltizam Yusifov told Trend on Sept.25.

According to Yusifov, the speech of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at the annual general debate of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly at the level of heads of states and governments has political and historical significance.

He stressed that during the debates, the president touched upon the topic of the 44-day second Karabakh war [from late Sept. to early Nov.2020] and the upcoming tasks.

"The speech of the head of state testifies that Azerbaijan is on the path of justice, and nothing will force our country to turn away from it," the MP noted.

Having occupied Azerbaijani territories, Armenia inflicted economic and environmental damage there, he added.

"A preliminary assessment was carried out and international organizations were informed. The glorious Azerbaijani army defeated the Armenian armed forces in 44 days and liberated our lands from the occupation, but Armenia left behind destruction and an ecological catastrophe," Yusifov further said.

He also emphasized that Armenia was engaged in illegal activities, robbery of natural resources, pollution of water resources, destruction of flora and fauna in the territories uncontrolled not only by Azerbaijan, but also by the international community.

“During the occupation, Armenia blocked the Tartarchay river, and in several regions hundreds of thousands of hectares of land were left without water, that is, ecological terror was committed, "Yusifov said.

Besides, according to him, during the occupation, Armenian vandals caused great damage to the Basitchay reserve.

"They destroyed almost half of the forests on the territory of the reserve. As a result of Armenian barbarism, the ecosystem that has been forming here for centuries has been irreparably damaged," concluded the MP.

Following over a month of military action to liberate its territories from Armenian occupation from late Sept. to early Nov. 2020, Azerbaijan has pushed Armenia to sign the surrender document. A joint statement on the matter was made by the Azerbaijani president, Armenia's PM, and the president of Russia.

A complete ceasefire and a cessation of all hostilities in the zone of the Karabakh conflict were introduced on Nov. 10, 2020.

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result of the ensuing war, the Armenian Armed Forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts. The 1994 ceasefire agreement was followed by peace negotiations.

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Iran to take part in exhibition on reconstruction of Azerbaijan’s Karabakh

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By Trend

Iran will take part in the first exhibition on the restoration, reconstruction and development of Azerbaijan's Karabakh on October 20-22, 2021, Iran's trade attaché to Azerbaijan Mehdi Babaei said, Trend reports citing Trade Promotion Organization of Iran (TPOI).

Babaei noted that the Iranian pavilion with the participation of the Tabriz International Exhibition Center will operate at the exhibition.

Those, who are interested in participating in this exhibition can get the necessary information from the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran.

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