Dominican president hopes economic rebound means his party’s victory

President Leonel Fernandez, who took power two years ago amid financial and political turmoil, is banking on the Caribbean nation's economic rebound to help his party gain more seats in legislative elections on Tuesday.

Twenty-two parties from across the political spectrum are fielding candidates in the first nationwide vote since Fernandez replaced President Hipolito Mejia, whose administration was dogged by corruption scandals, skyrocketing inflation and the devaluation of the Dominican peso.

Fernandez's Dominican Liberation Party holds just one Senate seat and about a quarter of those in the House of Representatives. But party leaders predict the country's economic recovery will persuade voters to grant them more clout in the legislature.

"The great challenge will be how to combine stability, growth and job creation, and in this we are (doing so)," Fernandez told supporters recently, calling the election "the start of a new historic step for the Dominican Republic of greater progress and of greater welfare."

Other parties, however, have warned it would be dangerous to put too much power in the hands of a single political faction.

"The population wants and needs a healthy democracy, where powers are separated between the government and opposition," said Alfredo Pacheco, a Santo Domingo mayoral candidate from Mejia's Dominican Revolutionary Party.

Mejia's center-left party holds 72 of the 150 seats in the House and 29 of the 32 Senate seats, and has used that majority to hold up Fernandez-backed projects like the construction of a Santo Domingo metro system and parts of his economic policy.

With 28 representatives added this year, 210 legislative seats are up for grabs Tuesday. Elections are held every four years, and the parties have encouraged Dominican expatriates to return to vote, reports the AP.