The president of the Dominican Republic announced that he will not seek a fourth term, opening the position to new leadership for the first time in nearly a decade.
The Friday night declaration by President Leonel Fernandez, 57, ends months of speculation and lobbying efforts by supporters to reform the constitution to allow him to run again.
According to Fernandez's Dominican Liberation Party, at least 2.2 million voters signed a petition two weeks ago calling for his re-election in the Caribbean nation of 6.3 million registered voters.
Fernandez has not said whether he will run again in 2016, although he reminded voters during his address Friday that he is the only presidential candidate to have obtained more than 2 million votes.
The constitution limits presidents to two consecutive four-year terms but allows them to run again after skipping an election cycle.
Fernandez, an attorney born in the Dominican Republic who grew up in New York City, was first elected to office in 1996, and later in 2004 and 2008. In 2008, he won nearly 54 per cent of the vote.
He has recently positioned himself as a peacemaker in high-profile conflicts, crafting a deal last year that allowed deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to seek refuge in the Dominican Republic.
Possible presidential candidates from Fernandez's party include a former interior minister, a former attorney general and Fernandez's wife, Margarita Cedeno. She has not addressed such speculation, although local news media have run multiple ads touting her as the next candidate, including a slogan that says, "Mother's Here."
Whomever is chosen as candidate will face former President Hipolito Mejia of the opposition Dominican Revolutionary Party, whom Fernandez defeated in 2004. The general elections are scheduled for May 20, 2012.
Source: Jamaica Observer
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