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The Independent Online
The shadow of outgoing President Joaquin Balaguer hovered over yesterday's Dominican Republic election as voters chose between two candidates in a second-round run-off. Thanks to the machinations of Mr Balaguer, the man who finished a distant second in the first round on 16 May, Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Liberation Party, may find himself president- elect today.

Mr Fernandez finished seven points behind Jose Francisco Pena Gomez of the Dominican Revolutionary Party in the first round, with Mr Balaguer's own candidate a distant third. The two-man run- off was called because Mr Pena Gomez fell short of 50 per cent of the vote.

Claiming that Mr Pena Gomez, who is black, is of neighbouring Haitian origin, Mr Balaguer then overturned decades of enmity with the Liberation Party and called on his own supporters to vote for Mr Fernandez. That could swing the vote in his favour. Mr Pena Gomez says the deal would effectively make Mr Fernandez a puppet of Mr Balaguer, who is to hand over power next month. Phil Davison

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