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Dominican Republic President Set to Win 2nd Term

Dominican Republic President and Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) presidential candidate Danilo Medina (R) greets his supporters during a rally in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, May 12, 2016.

Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina appears set to win a second term in office, with preliminary returns from Sunday's election giving him enough votes to avoid a run-off election.

Results from more than half of the island nation's polling places show Medina leading with about 62 percent of the vote. His closest rival, businessman Luis Abinader, took about 35 percent in early results.

Final results are expected later Monday.

Medina's centrist Democratic Liberation Party has been in power for 12 years, winning four of the past five presidential elections.

Medina benefits from an economy that grew by seven percent in the past year. But more than 40 percent of the Dominican Republic's 10 million residents are estimated to live in poverty.

In 2015, Medina, who was limited to a four-year term in office, pushed through election law changes that allowed him to run for a second term.

Medina has been criticized for government policies that discriminate against Dominican-born children of Haitian immigrant workers. He has overseen the repatriation of tens and thousands of people with roots in Haiti, a policy condemned by human rights groups.

Nearly 60 percent of the island nation's eligible voters reportedly participated in Sunday's election, which also chose members of the country's Senate, Chamber of Deputies and local offices.

For the past two years, the Dominican Republic has ranked as the fastest growing economy in Latin America and the Caribbean.

However, poverty rates on the island continue to hover at around 40 percent.