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04SANTODOMINGO147 2004-01-08 21:45:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Santo Domingo
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DOMINICAN ELECTION SERIES #13: NEW FEINT: THE LAW

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1. Following is no. 13 in our series on the Dominican
presidential elections.


NEW FEINT: PROPOSAL FOR AMENDMENTS WITH THE LAW OF "SLOGANS"

"We are steeped to the marrow in
impulsiveness, always reacting to
immediate circumstances, the reason
that we are dogged by terrible evil
of superficiality -- the perpetual
source of preventable mistakes."

-- Listin Diario editorial,
January 8: "ASI SOMOS"

PRD Henry Sarraff may or may not have been well-intentioned
when he put his "Law of Slogans" (Ley de Lemas) into the
legislative hopper on January 2, but he certainly gave a new
energy to discussion of the blockages in the major parties.
In brief, his solution to the leadership crises in the ruling
Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) and in the Revolutionary
Social Christian Party (PRSC) is to move the party primary
process to election day. Sarraff would allow each recognized
party to field up to five tickets -- president plus vice
president -- and would declare victory for the leading ticket
of the leading party. The "slogans" tag is shorthand for the
two-step choice of the voter: first, for a party (with its
"slogan") and then for a faction of that party (with its own,
subordinated "slogan").

Saraff argues in a letter to the Ambassador that the process
is similar to that used for the election of the Dominican
Congress in 2002, in which representives of the provinces
were chosen from prioritized political party lists in
proportion to the percentages of the total vote. Saraff
calls this the "Uruguay model," without noting it was used
there in 1939 (and has since been abandoned).

Sarraff's suggestion for dealing with the breakdown of the
party primary process appeals greatly to the three PRD
pre-candidates (VP Ortiz-Bosch, Rafael Subervi and Emmanuel
Esquea) who decided, finally, not to run against incumbent
President Hipolito Mejia in the PRD national party vote now
set for January 18. They had previously sought an
arrangement whereby they could mutually pledge votes to the
leader amongst the three, in hopes of overcoming Mejia on his
own ground. Saraff's proposed modifications of the electoral
law would give each of them a (long-shot) opportunity to try
to outperform Mejia on election day and thereby take both the
PRD and the presidency away from him. They would be betting
that an unsplintered PRD would be likely to outpoll the PLD,
no matter how attractive the current prospects of PLD
candidate Leonel Fernandez.

Everyone in town has something to say about this one, which
suggests to us that many are apprehensive that this very
late, very ornate, and PRD-slanted initiative might actually
get voted through by the heavy PRD majority in the Congress.
Technically, the current extension of the legislative session
expires on January 12 and is charged only with considering
legislation relating to the budget and the IMF program.
House of Representatives President Pacheco commented
tight-lipped that legislators would "study" the proposal. If
the Congress doesn't act quickly, the only recourse would be
to get Mejia to call a special session or to wait until the
February 27 regular session. Mejia, at first apparently
interested in the Saraff initiative, subsequently backed away
from it, telling journalists, "This is no creature of ours."

Leonel Fernandez initially dissmissed the proposal as "sloppy
thinking," but as clamor increased, on Janauary 7 he sent PLD
chiefs to ask the coordinator of the civil-society "Elections
Monitoring Commission" Msgr Agripino Nunez to convene a
public debate on the proposal. Nunez had just received Peggy
Cabral, widow of PRD leader Jose Pena Gomez and organizer of
the "official" PRD party vote. Cabral had earlier received
the three PRD pre-candidates in her home for a lengthy,
inconclusive session. She called on Nunez in her personal
capacity, not as the PRD organizer. The monsignor told the
press he was sorry that Peggy Cabral, "she, of all persons,
has to get involved in this difficult business."

That evening Mejia received the three PRD pre-candidates for
a discussion, but no one reported any progress. As he left,
Subervi repeated that he and Mejia's other rivals would not
be participating in the January 18 vote.
Secretary of Culture Tony Rahul, organizer of the postponed

SIPDIS
December 18 PRD convention, wrote an op-ed piece in Listin
Diario advocating the "Ley de Lemas." The leading business
organization CONEP opposes it. Rebel PRD party president
Hatuey Descamps called the proposal "a joke, at a well-chosen
moment."
PRSC presidential candidate Eduardo Estrella is against the
idea, and his supporters called for action against it.
Estrella's frustrated rival Jacinto Peynado, still in
hospital in Miami, was cautiously non-committal in response
to a journalist's phone call.

Would it be constitutional? President of the well respected
NGO "Foundation for Institutionalism and Justice" (FINJUS)
Jose Rizek maintains that the idea would contravene the
Constitution's specific directive that the president and
vice-president are elected by a "direct vote"; if the law is
passed, FINJUS will petition the Supreme Court for an
interpretation.

The "Ley de Lemas" may be part of the silly season, but it's
not beyond imagination that politicians feeling themselves
unbound by traditions or institutions might set off to pursue
Saraff's beguiling slogans.

In the midst of this confusion, one deeply involved
politician spoke up with decorum and elegance. On the
occasion of the ceremonial New Year's greetings to the
administration, January 6, Vice President Milagros
Ortiz-Bosch responded to a journalist's question about these
PRD tractations by apologizing to all Dominicans "for all the
pain and uncertainties that we have caused during this long
year, a year also of both economic and financial
difficulties."



2. Drafted by Michael Meigs.

MARSHALL