Dominican president hints he wants to run for 3rd term despite term limit rules

The Dominican Republic’s president hinted Sunday that he that he might seek a third consecutive presidency, despite constitutional term limits that seem to bar such a move, the Associated Press reports.

Leaders of President Leonel Fernández’s party have been promoting his candidacy while lobbying for constitutional reform that would allow him to run next year. They presented Fernández Sunday with a petition apparently signed by 2.2 million people calling for his re-election in the Caribbean nation of 6.3 million registered voters.

Fernández, who is serving his second consecutive term, said he would let leaders of his Dominican Liberation Party decide on his possible candidacy in the 2012 election.

“I have been and I am a soldier of the Dominican Liberation Party. I put forth these 2.2 million signatures, that are 2.2 million votes, so that the party decides,” Fernández said.

The current constitution — adopted in January 2010 under an agreement between Fernández and the main opposition party — limits presidents to two consecutive four-year terms. However, they are permitted to serve again after skipping an election cycle.

Ruling party officials say the constitution, which has been revised numerous times, should be updated to allow Fernández to restart the clock and run for a third consecutive term.

The Dominican Republic restricted re-elections in the mid-1990s to prevent repeat campaigns in the style of former President Joaquin Balaguer, who held power for more than two decades and was known for jailing critics. Allegations of fraud were widespread during his tenure.

The Dominican Revolutionary Party, the country’s main opposition party, recently nominated former President Hipolito Mejia as its presidential candidate for 2012.

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