Ruling party candidate Danilo Medina claimed victory on Monday in the Dominican Republic’s presidential elections, after official results showed him beating former president Hipolito Mejia.
Medina was leading with 51.2 percent of the vote to 46.9 percent for ex-president Hipolito Mejia, with more than 99 percent of the precincts accounted for, electoral authorities said.
“Today, thanks to the sovereign decision of the Dominican people, I am president of all Dominicans,” Medina wrote on his Twitter account.
Medina, 60, is representing the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) of outgoing Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, who has served three terms in office. His running mate is the president’s wife, Margarita Cedeno.
Mejia, however, had not yet conceded defeat and officials of his Dominican Revolutionary Party said they would challenge the results.
Mejia said he would wait for the central election board to declare a winner because “there are still votes to be counted,” and he wanted his people to review the actual results.
Earlier, a Mejia spokesman, Enmanuel Esquea, said the former president had won and vowed: “we will prove this with documents.”
Mejia, 71, served as president from 2000 to 2004.
Four other candidates also ran in the election, but had little impact.
Clashes between the candidates’ supporters have left two people dead in recent weeks, and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal has had to admonish both candidates and urge them to tone down their rhetoric.
The fact that Fernandez’s wife is Medina’s running mate reinforces his image as a candidate who will see through the current government’s liberal economic policies, promising “safe change.”
The Caribbean nation depends heavily on tourism, remittances from Dominicans living overseas, aid from the IMF and cheap oil from Venezuela.
Inflation surpassed 7 percent last year, unemployment was 14.6 percent and 30 percent of its people live in poverty.
Mejia has shaped his campaign around promises to fight poverty with social programs and policies to boost agriculture and aid farm workers.
An agronomist by training, Mejia has a strong following among poor farmers, with a down to earth style and rhetoric that helped him win the presidency in 2004, when he defeated Medina.