Government and politicsrepresentative democracy or democratic republic, with three branches of power: executive, legislative, and judicial. The President of the Dominican Republic heads the executive branch and executes laws passed by the Congress, appoints the Cabinet, and is commander in chief of the armed forces. The president and vice-president run for office on the same ticket and are elected by direct vote for 4-year terms. The national legislature is bicameral, composed of a Senate, which has 32 members, and the Chamber of Deputies, with 178 members. Judicial authority rests with the Supreme Court of Justice's 16-members. They are appointed by a council composed of the President, the leaders of both houses of Congress, the President of the Supreme Court, and an opposition or non–governing-party member. The Court "alone hears actions against the president, designated members of his Cabinet, and members of Congress when the legislature is in session."
The president appoints the governors of the thirty-one provinces. Mayors and municipal councils administer the 124 municipal districts and the National District (Santo Domingo). They are elected at the same time as congressional representatives.
The Dominican Republic has a multi-party political system. Elections are held every two years, alternating between the Presidential elections, which are held in years evenly divisible by four, and the Congressional and municipal elections, which are held in even-numbered years not divisible by four. "International observers have found that presidential and congressional elections since 1996 have been generally free and fair." The Central Elections Board (JCE) of 9 members supervises elections, and its decisions are unappealable.
There are many political parties and advocacy groups and, new on the scene, civil organizations. The three major parties are the conservative Social Christian Reformist Party (Spanish: Partido Reformista Social Cristiano [PRSC]), in power 1966–78 and 1986–96; the social democratic Dominican Revolutionary Party (Spanish: Partido Revolucionario Dominicano [PRD]), in power in 1963, 1978–86, and 2000–04); and the originally leftist, increasingly conservative Dominican Liberation Party (Spanish: Partido de la Liberación Dominicana [PLD]), in power 1996–2000 and since 2004.
The presidential elections of 2008 were held on May 16, 2008, with incumbent Leonel Fernández winning with 53% of the vote. He defeated Miguel Vargas Maldonado, of the PRD, who achieved a 40.48% share of the vote. Amable Aristy, of the PRSC, achieved 4.59% of the vote. Other minority candidates, which includes former Attorney General Guillermo Moreno from the Movement for Independence, Unity and Change (Movimiento Independencia, Unidad y Cambio [MIUCA]) and PRSC former presidential candidate and defector Eduardo Estrella obtained less than 1% of the vote.