Dominican Republic's Danilo Medina 'leads' in presidential election

Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina looks poised to win the first round of voting in the country's presidential election, early results suggest.

However, it is unclear if he will win enough votes to avoid a second round.

Voting was extended for an extra hour after delays caused by technical problems at some polling stations.

Under Mr Medina, whose Democratic Liberation Party has been in power for 12 years, the economy has been booming.

But his main challenger, Luis Abinader, has accused the government of corruption and failing to tackle the high crime rate.

Preliminary results from 12% of polling stations showed that Mr Medina's coalition had won 61% of the vote. He needs to get more than 50% to avoid a run-off.

Electoral rules were changed recently to allow the president to run for a second consecutive term.

He has benefitted from an economy that is the fastest growing in Latin America with 7% growth in 2014 and 2015, thanks to millions of tourism dollars from foreigners flocking to the country's luxury hotels and beaches.

But around 40% of the nation's 10 million people are estimated to live in poverty and the unemployment rate is about 14%, according to government figures.

"Compared with the rest of Latin America, the attempts to reduce poverty have been the least effective," Pedro Silverio, an economist at the Pontificate Catholic University Madre Maestra in the Dominican Republic, told the BBC.

Danilo Medina, a left-of-centre economist, has overseen the repatriation of tens of thousands of people with roots in neighbouring Haiti.

The policy has popular support but has been condemned by human rights groups.

Mr Abinader, a wealthy businessman of Lebanese ancestry, has blamed Mr Medina for government corruption and the country's high crime rate.

Also up for election are senators, lower house deputies and local officials from 26 different parties.

BBC News |

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