Local Government

Local Government

The Dominican system of local government, like the Dominican legal system, was based on the French system of top-down rule and strong central authority. The country was divided into twentynine provinces, plus the National District (Santo Domingo). The provinces, in turn, were subdivided into a total of seventy-seven municipalities (or counties). Each province was administered by a civil governor appointed by the president. A governor had to be a Dominican citizen, at least twenty-five years old, and in full possession of his civil and political rights. The powers and duties of governors are set by law. The Constitution establishes the structure of local government; its specific functions are enumerated in the municipal code.

The municipalities and the National District were governed by mayors and municipal councils, both popularly elected to fouryear terms. The size of the councils depended on the size of the municipality, but each was required to have at least five members. The qualifications of local officials as well as the powers and duties of mayors and councils were set by law. Naturalized citizens could hold municipal office, provided they had lived in the community at least ten years.

Neither provinces nor municipalities had any independent power to levy taxes, so few services could be initiated at the local level. There were no local police departments, only a single national force. Policy and programs with regard to education, social services, roads, electricity, and public works were similarly administered at the national level, rather than at the provincial or the municipal level. Local government was therefore weak and ineffective, not only because it lacked taxing authority, but also because, in the Dominican system, the central government set virtually all policy.

Starting in the early 1960s, various efforts were made to strengthen Dominican local government. A new municipal league came into existence in 1962, and efforts were made to develop community spirit, local initiative, and self-help projects. These projects were not wholly successful, in large part because of the traditional arrangement under which virtually all power flowed downward from the central government. In the late 1980s, Santo Domingo remained the focus of the country's affairs, the source of power and largesse.


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