The Struggle for Democratic Politics in the Dominican Republic

The Struggle for Democratic Politics in the Dominican Republic

The Struggle for Democratic Politics in the Dominican Republic

The Struggle for Democratic Politics in the Dominican Republic


Over the past several decades, the Dominican Republic has experienced striking political stagnation in spite of dramatic socioeconomic transformations. In this work, Jonathan Hartlyn offers a new explanation for the country's political evolution, based on a broad comparative perspective.

Hartlyn rejects cultural explanations unduly focused on legacies from the Spanish colonial era and structural explanations excessively centered on the lack of national autonomy. Instead, he highlights the independent impact of political and institutional factors and historical legacies, while also considering changes in Dominican society and the influence of the United States and other international forces.

In particular, Hartlyn examines how the Dominican Republic's tragic nineteenth-century history established a legacy of neopatrimonialism, a form of rule that found extreme expression in the brutal dictator Rafael Trujillo and has continued to shape politics down to the present. By examining economic policy-making and,often conflictual elections, Hartlyn also analyzes the missed opportunity for democracy during the rule of the Dominican Revolutionary Party and the democratic tensions of the administrations of Joaquin Balaguer.


"My father's been elected a senator!" My first introduction to Dominican politics took place in 1978 when Gerardo Canto, a fellow graduate student in New Haven, explained to me that the opposition Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD) had just won the recent Dominican elections in a landmark victory, though his father and the PRD were being harassed by the military. This memory must have been in the back of my mind when several years later at a conference in Bogotá, Colombia, Abraham F. Lowenthal told me that "interesting things" were occurring in the Dominican Republic that merited examination. Abe's advice and support were critical, especially as I began my work in the Dominican Republic.

I began my scholarly fascination with the Dominican Republic with a long stay over the 1985-86 academic year, funded by a Tinker Postdoctoral Fellowship and with additional assistance from Vanderbilt University. In that year, I carried out over one hundred interviews and multiple additional, more informal conversations. The interviews were of three major types. After an extensive review of press accounts of the 1977-78 period, I interviewed many of the key actors involved in the 1978 electoral process. Based on a positional methodology, I also interviewed leaders of the country's major political parties; business, civic, and labor organizations; and past and current policymakers. I supplemented these efforts with additional interviews with diplomats, professionals, and activists. Over 1985-86, I also witnessed the growing disintegration of the PRD and the electoral comeback of Joaquín Balaguer. In frequent return visits, as I expanded the scope of my project beyond the 1978 transition and the PRD period, I reinterviewed many of the same people and interviewed others. And, as a member of several international election observer missions to the country, I was also privileged to witness many historic moments in the country's political evolution. In nearly all cases, I was met with graciousness and interest. Although nearly all my interviews were carried out with the understanding that they were not for attribution, I would like to extend a collective thank you to all those individuals here.

Over the years, many people opened doors for me, but there are two who were among the first and the most important. One was Alfonso Canto (whose . . .

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