The Dominican Republic has reformed its electoral legislation 26 times

Between 1978 and 2019 the Dominican Republic made 26 reforms to its electoral legislation, according to a study published by the Dominican Political Observatory (OPD), an entity attached to the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (Funglode).

“From the fall of the Trujillo regime in 1961, passing through the previous electoral regulations (Law 275-97) and reaching the first integral update of the Dominican electoral framework with Law 15-19, Organic of Electoral Regime, in the country there have been 26 reforms in this matter”, explains the document.

The research specifies that the enactment of Law 33-18, of Political Parties and Law 15-19, brought with it controversies, complaints and submissions for unconstitutionality of a series of articles of both laws, especially in terms of freedom of expression, affiliation, candidacy requirements, alliances and coalitions, among other aspects.

The study “Electoral and Party Legislation in the Dominican Republic: origin, evolution and new reform process” also states that for this year, the Central Electoral Board (JCE) has planned a new reform to correct several necessary aspects of revision in laws number 15-19 and 33-18.

In this regard, the OPD-Funglode considers it pertinent that these reforms be approved at least one year before the elections, so that their implementation does not become an obstacle when the dates for the assembly of the elections arrive, whether those corresponding to the primaries or to the general elections, in order to avoid shortcomings, improvisations and non-observances as a consequence of the lack of time to adapt the electoral process to the reformed regulations.

The research also says that the new reform to the electoral and party legislation requires the inclusion of guiding principles of the electoral process, direct changes to the normative text made by the Constitutional Court (TC) through unconstitutionality sentences, amendments on the aspects that overlap and are contradictory between the Law of Parties and the Electoral Regime.

“In addition, this new electoral legislation must include a rigorous examination of compatibility between the text of the reform and the Constitution, in order to prevent it from being subject to so many appeals of unconstitutionality later on”, add the authors of the study, Vladimir Rozón and Jean Luis Sanó, coordinator and researcher of the Political Parties Unit of the OPD, respectively.

Situation in Latin America

The OPD-Funglode report adds that in the 2015-2020 period, the main issues on the reform agenda in Latin America have been gender parity, re-election and the representativeness and number of legislators in Congress.

“Unlike what happened between 1978 and 2015, when most of the modifications were reflected in constitutional changes, most of those carried out between 2015 and 2018 were translated into electoral or party laws, as is the case of the Dominican Republic and Argentina; or involved constitutional changes without generating a constituent process that drafted a new constitutional text, as is the case of Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Ecuador and Guatemala,” the document indicates.

The research shows that reforms in the region have occurred intensively between 1978 and 2018, accounting for the way in which political party elites conceive the relevance of institutional change as a way to transform the political order, in addition to the fact that they have been promoted without the active participation of citizens in the diagnosis or in the elaboration and implementation of reforms, as highlighted by other studies in the region.

Senators and Deputies have a transcendental challenge with the task of the integral modification of the Social Security Law, thus responding to the provisions of Law 13-20 which established that “As of September 2020, the review and study process for the integral modification of Law No. 87-01, of May 9, 2001, which creates the Dominican Social Security System, will begin.”

Thus, since March of this year, the Bicameral Commission of Social Security of the National Congress started the work for this integral modification, which should also be a structural modification of Law 87-01.

Despite the opinion of some professionals, the legislators must carry out this revision process for the modification of the Social Security, starting from what the Dominican Constitution establishes in its Article 60, that “Every person has the right to social security. The State shall stimulate the progressive development of social security to ensure universal access to adequate protection in sickness, disability, unemployment and old age.”

In addition, it is important to take into account the articles on the rights that the Magna Carta enshrines as a Right.

Taking into account these constitutional aspects, we understand that the Legislators have done well to listen to the considerations of the different sectors related to the Social Security System. In this process, it is important to take into account the opinions of public and private actors, regulatory institutions, as well as risk administrators, health service providers, professionals and workers in the sector, but above all, the legislators must pay special attention to the affiliated persons and their dependents, who constitute the raison d’être of Social Security.

Paradoxically, our Social Security treats affiliated persons and their dependents as if they were not subjects of rights. It would seem that the affiliated persons and their dependents are not the subject on which the functioning of the Dominican Social Security System makes sense.

It is important that they empathize with the different situations that affiliated persons and their dependents go through on a daily basis every time the Social Security System denies them a benefit, or demands an additional payment, when it hinders their access to their rights, covering it up in labyrinthine processes among which affiliated persons and their dependents end up abandoning out of weariness or hopelessness.

Some criticize the voices that have presented to the Legislators the feelings of the people, who have recounted some of the hardships suffered day by day by thousands of affiliated persons and their dependents. They say that this is an attempt to demonize the Law, but they have forgotten on which side is the common good, welfare, solidarity, attention to the needy and on which side are the merchants who, like those whom the Master knocked down their tables and scourged, taking them out of the temple, are now appropriating a system such as the Social Security, diverting its nature to prioritize everything to ensure their high profitability and low investment.

They say there is a negative campaign. They forget or turn a blind eye to pretend not to perceive the frustration of the people, pretending that they continue to endure the deficiencies and abuses that have been endured for nearly 20 years. They forget that the people have been waiting with optimism for the moment when the Social Security System would offer them everything it promised them. Today, the people have realized that what was promised cannot become a reality in a model in which only certain actors always come out as winners. What is negative is the business model on which the Dominican Social Security System was designed.

21 years ago, when the Social Security Law project was being discussed, many of those who today criticize the consultation process being carried out by the legislators, were part of the main actors who little by little transformed the original project into a “Frankenstein”, as they responded to the claims of all the sectors interested in the possible businesses that were on the horizon, and began to demand the inclusion of articles that would favor them. A long and complex process, which tired many and ended up changing the nature of the original model, concluding with the business-based model we have.

Social Security needs to return to the rights of the people and for that the Legislators must continue to connect with the vicissitudes that the affiliated people and their dependents are going through day by day.

Before thinking about the financial complexities, the Legislators must define the benefits that Social Security must ensure. That is what the Dominican Constitution mandates.

Then, and only then, it is necessary to define the strategies through which these benefits could be offered and after establishing the alternatives that are considered possible, it is necessary to make the economic feasibility analysis of these strategies, in order to define the model with which the assumed benefits will be ensured.

Although the cost/benefit ratio is important and necessary to consider, it is not true that it is the only valid criterion of truth, because if it were, the Social Security System would not be so poorly accepted by the affiliated persons and their dependents. For its approval, Law 87-01 had extensive cost/benefit analyses that were presented to justify its feasibility, with which false expectations were created among the Dominican population about the benefits of the new Social Security System, with its three good subsystems: Health, Labor Risks and Pensions. The welfare of the population was promised to be guaranteed.

We insist that prior to the cost/benefit analysis to determine the feasibility of the new Social Security System, it is necessary to analyze the cost/benefit ratio in order to determine the feasibility of the new system.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has described the benefits that Social Security should offer.

The legislators have the opportunity to make a memorable contribution to the Dominican population, but for that they have to avoid falling into the nebulae of the business model on which the current system was designed, keeping their focus on what the Dominican constitution dictates and on the feelings of the people, on their good and bad experiences, their yearnings and hopes.

We congratulate the legislators for the process they are following, we encourage them to continue in this way, we congratulate the technicians who express their criticisms and recommendations. But our greatest recognition is for all the people who day by day express their demands, their bad experiences and their hardships with a Social Security that does not satisfy their needs, seeing how certain actors exhibit the great profits they obtain, when each affiliated person has to pay additional contributions for each service provided.

We warn about the danger of interests hijacking and diverting the process of modification of Law 87-01 to ensure that these modifications favor them, just as the current system does. That is why we strongly recommend:

Prioritize the mandates of the Dominican Constitution.
Listen to the population (their good and bad experiences, their hopes and expectations).
Determine the benefits to be assumed in the Dominican Social Security.
Identify the models with which the assumed benefits could be guaranteed.
Analyze the feasibility of the identified models.
Choice of the model on which the new Dominican Social Security System will be designed.

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