Path: Table of Countries --> Dominican Republic
Kenneth Janda
Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey
New York: The Free Press, 1980: pp. 618-619
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: The Party System in 1950-1956 and 1957-1962
(Text as published in 1980 citation above)

The Dominican Republic, a nation of fewer than 3 million people, occupies the eastern portion of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. The Dominican Republic also shares common ground with Haiti in politics, as the two countries displayed back-to-back dictatorships throughout our time period. The dictatorship in the Dominican Republic began in 1930 with the ascendance to power of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. Trujillo ruled through the Dominican Party, which became his personal political machine. Trujillo had himself reelected as president in 1934, 1942, and 1947. He did not run for president in 1938, installing instead his own candidate in the office and wielding power from outside.

Trujillo chose much the same course in the election of 1952, which was won by his brother, Héctor Bienvenido Trujillo, who captured 100 percent of the votes. The 1957 elections were a repeat performance, with Héctor Trujillo and the Dominican Party monopolizing votes and offices. Other Latin American nations objected to political repression within the Dominican Republic and applied economic sanctions. In 1960, Rafael Trujillo unexpectedly resigned as head of the Dominican Party and resigned as commander-in-chief of the armed forces; his brother followed with his resignation from the presidency. Vice President Joaquín Balaguer stepped up into the presidency on August 3, 1960, and reorganized the cabinet, removing some members of the Trujillo family. Some political liberties were restored, and elections were announced for 1962. The ambiguous role of Trujillo in the government during this period became moot on May 30, 1961, when Rafael Trujillo was assassinated. Before the year was out, the prominent members of the Trujillo family had fled the country, and Balaguer proclaimed the end of the Dominican Party, thus closing out our period.

Continuity and Change since 1961

The vertical lines in the graph of parliamentary representation in the Dominican Republic over time indicate that the country has suffered major discontinuities in its party system. The end of the Trujillo dictatorship in 1962 brought elections, but the period of party politics lasted less than a year until terminated by the military coup of 1963. Military intervention by the United States in 1965 led to elections in 1966 and an extended period of civilian government but not competitive party politics. Change, more than continuity, has characterized the party system over time in the Dominican Republic. The single party in our original party did not survive past 1961, and two new parties qualified for study.  

Original Parties, Terminated

421 Dominican Party. The party of the Trujillo dictatorship, the Dominican Party was outlawed after his assassination in 1961.

New Parties, Continuing

422 Reformist Party. This party was formed in 1963 by Joaquín Balaguer. It won the elections of 1966, 1970, and 1974 as Balaguer was twice reelected president--to cries of electoral fraud by the opposition.

423 Revolutionary Party. Founded in 1939 by Juan Bosch, the Revolutionary Party won the 1962 elections and Bosch was elected president, only to be overthrown by the military. Bosch was defeated in the 1966 presidential elections, and the party boycotted the 1970 and 1974 elections. Its candidate in 1978 was Antonio Guzmán, who upset Balaguer and won the presidency while his party was winning control of the lower house.


The victory of Guzmán and his Revolutionary Party over Belaguer and his Reformist Party was described as the first peaceful transition of power to an opposition group in the history of the Dominican Republic. As of early 1979, it can be said that the Dominican Republic has a competitive two-party system. How long it will last remains to be seen.

1. Our study of party politics in the Dominican Republic is based on a file of 1,219 pages from 42 documents, 3 of which are in Spanish, the rest in English. The only party included in our study is the Dominican Party, code 421, which is discussed on 396 pages, constituting 34 percent of the file. The bibliographic search and indexing of material for the 61e was done by Marcelino Miyares, assisted by Judith Newsome Gillespie. Larry Goldberg used the file to code the Dominican Party on the variables in the ICPP conceptual framework. Our consultant was George Blanksten.