SANTO DOMINGO, July 5 (Xinhua) -- Dominicans went to the polls on Sunday to vote in general elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The head of the Dominican Republic's Central Electoral Board (JCE), Julio Cesar Castanos, called on the electorate to exercise their right to vote while maintaining social distancing and practicing other prevention measures designed to avoid transmitting the novel coronavirus.
Complying with the health measures is one of the major challenges of these elections, where 7.5 million Dominicans are eligible to vote (6.9 million in the country and 600,000 living abroad in 21 countries).
A total of 1,628 candidates are competing for 264 posts, including president and vice president, 32 senators and 190 deputies of the Congress.
Businessman and former Public Works and Communications minister Gonzalo Castillo (better known as "El Penco") is the presidential candidate of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD).
Luis Abinader, who has tested positive for COVID-19, serves as the opposition Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) candidate for president on a platform to fight corruption.
Also in the running to succeed current President Danilo Medina is former president Leonel Fernandez, who has served as president three times.
Fernandez lost his bid in October to become the ruling party's presidential candidate, so he quit the PLD to run as the candidate of a coalition of three other parties, including the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC), National Unity Party (PUN) and Dominican Workers Party (PTD).
Due to lockdown measures, candidates wrapped up their campaigns online, forgoing traditional political rallies and massive crowds.
The winners of these elections face tackling the ongoing health crisis, which as of Saturday had seen 36,184 people test positive and 786 people die of COVID-19 in a nation of 10 million inhabitants, and also restart an economy that relies heavily on tourism.