Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Unwashable magneta ink to prevent fraudulent voting is at last fading from the fingers of the Dominican Republic voters. However, four days after presidential elections were held here, Dominicans still do not know who won the election. The election board remains paralyzed by political infighting and unable to announce the winner.
The election has become a standoff between two candidates -- Jacobo Majluta Azar and Joaqu'in Balaguer. And supporters of both candidates insist their man has won.
The Central Elections Board suspended counting late Sunday afternoon without explanation and with about 10 percent of the ballots uncounted. Although they said they would resume the count early Monday morning, they remained inactive throughout Monday.
By Sunday most observers had already decided that Mr. Balaguer's small but consistent lead would hold. Balaguer, of the Reformist Party, was President from 1964 to 1978. His supporters, many carrying holstered 45-caliber automatic pistols, embraced each other in anticipation of his victory. Carrying arms is a common practice in the Dominican Republic, but it is illegal during the election. As Balaguer emerged from his house, the crowd exploded with loud cheers.
Although supporters of Mr. Majluta seemed somber, they did not concede defeat. And Sunday night, Majluta announced, ``I won. Nothing can take away the victory. First they will have to kill me.''
Majluta, candidate of the ruling Dominican Revolutionary Party, accused the electoral board of favoring Balaguer. Two of the three board members, including the president, then resigned.
The election board, however, has received the support of the military, the government, and leftist opposition leader Juan Bosch Gavino. Mr. Bosch appears to be coming in third in the election. No evidence of fraud has been presented and most observers have called the election honest. It is widely believed that Balaguer has won, although no one is certain how long it will take for the results to be announced.
In neighborhoods of the capital where Majluta is strongly supported, people are still insisting that he is the winner. ``We are waiting for the final results and if they are not correct we will take to the streets,'' said a young man who lives in a poor Santo Domingo neighborhood.
Balaguer, who surrounds himself with tough armed men, was elected president after the 1965 United States Marine invasion. He was voted out of office in 1978 but left only after strong pressure was exerted by President Carter. He is a political conservative who has a portrait of Spain's Gen. Francisco Franco in his home.
Many in the city remember Balaguer as a repressive President and talk about the people in their neighborhoods who disappeared under his regime.
Although many talk about not accepting the electoral board's decision, there seems to be no plan of action. ``It is a democracy,'' said one man from a brightly colored wooden-shacked neighborhood, ``but if we do not accept what the electoral board says and go out in the street the Army will shoot us. I don't want to do that.''
If Balaguer comes to power in this election, it will be the second time in Dominican Republic history that power has changed hands through election. The only other time was when he was forced out of office in 1978.