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Dominican Republic’s Ruling Party Holds Balaguer-less Primary

September 30, 1995

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) _ For the first time, Joaquin Balaguer, the man who has dominated Dominican politics for decades, isn’t a shoo-in for re-election. That’s because he’s taken himself out of the race.

Hoping to put last year’s disputed elections behind it, the ruling Social Christian Reformist Party is holding on Sunday its first presidential primary since its founding in 1964 in which Balaguer is not running.

A successful primary could erase doubts about Balaguer’s promise to leave office next year. He’s broken similar promises in the past.

Vice President Jacinto Peynado and Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso are the main contenders to succeed the 89-year-old Balaguer, who has been president for 19 of the past 27 years. There are three other candidates.

All have portrayed themselves as Balaguer’s choice, but the president has kept silent about his preferred successor. The winner likely will face opposition leader Jose Francisco Pena Gomez in the May 16, 1996 election.

Balaguer, who is blind from glaucoma and suffering from phlebitis, was barred from re-election under constitutional reforms approved after last year’s election. He has served six terms.

Many Dominicans believe Pena Gomez, of the Dominican Revolutionary Party, was the real winner in last year’s election.

Pena Gomez, who lost by 21,000 votes out of 2.5 million, charged that 200,000 supporters couldn’t vote because of altered voter lists. Foreign observers and the U.S. government reported fraud and pushed for a new vote.

Balaguer agreed to hold a new presidential election after 15 months. The Balaguer-dominated Congressional Assembly later extended that to two years. He is slated to step down on Aug. 16, 1996.

Many business leaders worry that Balaguer’s continued presence could hurt relations with the United States, a major trading partner.

Balaguer didn’t openly support the U.S.-led operation last year to restore exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to office in neighboring Haiti. He also failed to enforce a U.N. embargo against the Haitian military regime before Aristide’s return.

Peynado and Morales Troncoso, both 54, come from prominent political families.

Peynado is a millionaire businessman and friend of Cuban President Fidel Castro. A former senator from Santo Domingo, he has been vice president since 1994.

Morales Troncoso headed the country’s largest sugar and tourism business before being selected by Balaguer to become vice president in 1986. He was re-elected to that post in 1990.

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