“The PLD: 43 Years Later”, an article by Dr. Leonel FernándezDecember 19, 2016
Upon celebrating the 43rd anniversary of its founding, the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) can congratulate itself for being the most successful political organization in the history of the Dominican Republic.
The party has governed for 16 of the past 20 years – and by 2020, when sitting president Danilo Medina finishes his term, it will have governed for 20 of the past 24 years.
Over this period it will have won five terms in the Dominican presidency,
four of them consecutive. And though the first victory came in a second round, in all cases the electoral triumphs garnered more than 50 percent of the vote, an unprecedented achievement in the nation’s history.
When it arrived into government for the first time in 1996, the PLD had just one senator and 13 deputies. Over time, however, it managed to see 31 senators elected by 2010, and 106 deputies by 2016, to achieve absolute majorities in both houses of congress.
same could be said about the number of mayorships, municipal district directors, and councillors. In all these cases, the party founded by professor Juan Bosch – our universal maestro of letters and politics – began with a weak
representation and yet has reached the highest seats of power in the national sphere.
What’s noteworthy about the electoral successes of the Purple Party of the Yellow Star is that they’ve been won in a genuinely democratic climate. Truth be
told, the PLD is the first institution in the history of our republic to have managed to combine democracy with development.
Over our history, we have seen democratic governments that made no contribution whatsoever to national development. Such was the case, to give a few examples, of the 19th century administrations of Ulises Francisco Espaillat and Francisco Gregorio Billini, whose democratic credentials cannot be questioned but who – due to the fleeting nature of their terms
in office – left the nation no substantive legacy of material development.
And the same is true the other way around: there have been administrations that did leave important physical contributions, like those of Ulises Heureaux (the famous Lilís), Ramón Cáceres (alias Mon), and Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, which nonetheless were not democratic but in fact outright dictatorial or despotic.
The PLD wasn’t always successful. The party arose from a
split in the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) in 1973 and participated for the first time in an electoral contest in 1978.
In that election the PLD won just 18,000 votes, for a total of 1% of all ballots cast. This poor showing cost the party its legal registration, and the terribly difficult task of collecting signatures to be recognized once again by the Central Electoral Council had to be undertaken a second time.
This crushing blow also produced a schism in the
party that led many analysts and national political commentators to forecast a quick demise for the young political association.
Some even sarcastically spread the rumor that as a political organization the PLD had been nothing more than a stillborn effort, a huge fiasco of national politics.
But from 1978, with the end of the 12 years of governance by Dr. Joaquín Balaguer and the triumph of Antonio Guzmán and the PRD, the character of politics in the Dominican
No longer was the political struggle a fight for freedom and democracy. These were deemed already an historic fact. From then onward the question was more like how to make Dominican society progress, how to generate prosperity and wellbeing for all.
While the PRD government managed to secure democratic advances for the country, it did not prove itself up to national expectations in the economic and social realms.
It was then that the PLD
and Juan Bosch, with systematic and persistent effort, dedicated themselves to creating national awareness on how to properly manage economic issues in a political administration.
As it became clear that the PRD government had missed the mark in this regard, the PLD began to win supporters, add to its ranks, and make headway on the national political scene.
The result of this was that in the 1982 elections it obtained 185,000 votes, for 9% of the total.
just four years Bosch’s organization had multiplied that number of votes by 10, thereby winning its first seats in congress.
Within four years, by 1986, the same thing happened. Upon reaching 385,000 votes, for a total of 18%, the PLD more than doubled its previous voting share. In doing so, it broke through the traditional two-party nature of Dominican politics.
In 1990, had it not been for a series of irregularities, professor Juan Bosch would have returned to climb
the stairs of the National Palace. And then, of course, came 1996, when national politics entered a new phase in which the Dominican Liberation Party has indisputably been the dominant political organization.
THE PLD’S CHALLENGES
Looking ahead, one of the main challenges now facing the PLD is knowing how to manage its success. The triumph of the purple party has been so overwhelming that it has prompted a seismic shift in the party system in the Dominican Republic.
With the death of Dr. Joaquín Balaguer, the Social Christian Reformist Party has not managed to recover its former vigor and vitality. Rather, it has survived as a weakened and fragmented organization that has tended to adopt a fluctuating policy of alliances.
The PRD, for its part, found itself severely affected by the economic crisis that arose in its final administration from 2000–2004, plus the death of its leader, Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez, and a series of
The new emerging organizations, among them the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), still lack enough political support in different sectors of national life to be able to face the powerful political-electoral machinery of the Dominican Liberation Party.
This somber picture of the national party spectrum leaves the Purple Party currently without any significant external threats – and in the absence of such a threat, it could lack appropriate incentives
to bring its internal forces together.
If it is unable to cohere internally, the natural political conflict with external opposition or competitors could eventually move to the internal sphere of the Dominican Liberation Party, generating frictions and tensions.
This is something that must be avoided, not just for the wellbeing of the PLD but for the very survival of Dominican democracy, which at this moment fundamentally depends on the proper functioning of the Purple
Thus in the absence of an external threat, the PLD has to assume internal unity as its most basic, essential task. In addition, it must reaffirm its principles to be first and foremost a patriotic organization that is connected to the people, transparent, supportive, and promoting of peace, progress, social justice, wellbeing, and modernity.
Rather than seeking office as the basic aim of political participation, what should most concern all PLD members is to
assume with passion and vehemence the defense of all great national causes, as the founding leader of our organization, professor Juan Bosch, always dreamed.
Assuming the crystallization of the great national hopes with the true PLD spirit will generate sufficient merits and prestige amongst those who behave in such a manner as to allow their consideration for holding of political office in both the party and in the government.
In the immediate term, however, to
modernize, bring together, and make political effort more efficient within the ranks of our
PLD, we must rapidly apply all decisions made at the 8th Norge Botello Congress.
This must begin with the Political Committee itself, as well the Central Committee, the Secretariat, the Provincial and Municipal Committees, and Exterior Sectionals, the Intermediate Committee, and the base of our organization.
In this way, by preserving internal unity and placing our
fight to strengthen our national values in the foreground, the Dominican Liberation Party will once again come out victorious, converting its challenges into new triumphs for the benefit of the Dominican people.