The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two thirds of the island known as Hispaniola. The island itself was occupied originally by Arawak migrants from South America; with further waves coming in during the 7th Century as Taino Indians and the Caribs in the 12th Century.
The Spanish arrived on the island in 1492 and in 1503 they brought in the first African slaves largely to work on sugar cane farms which were introduced at around the same time.
From 1700 the economy of the island declined and in 1791 the Haitian Revolution led to France controlling the whole island until they were defeated in 1804 and Haiti separated from the remainder of the island. The French held the east of the island until 1908 when they were defeated by Spanish settlers.
Between 1821 and 1844 the eastern part of the island was occupied by the Haitians and it was only in 1844 that the so called Trintarios declared independence once more and the first constitution was introduced in the November.
Between March 1861 and 1865 the country was returned to Spanish rule but by 1865 independence was restored. Between 1865 and 1879 there were 21 changes of government, but in 1882 General Ulises Heureaux became president and he ruled three times up to 1899 when he was assassinated.
This was, nonetheless, a period of relative stability in the country.
The assassination of Heureaux led to a further period of instability and economic problems which resulted in United States marines landing in 1916 with a US Military government imposed on the country in the November.
In May 1922 a lawyer, Francisco Peynado agreed the Hughes Peynado Plan with the American government which allowed for a provisional government. On 1st October Juan Bautista Vicini was made provisional president.
The US occupation ended in 1924 when Horacio Vásquez was elected president. He remained in office until 1930 when he tried to extend his term of office and was replaced in a short revolution by Rafael Trujillo.
Trujillo’s regime was noteworthy for its violence and brutality, but he remained in office until 1938 and was elected as president once more between 1942 and 1952. In 1952 he was succeeded by his brother Hector Trujillo who remained in office until 1960. In 1961 Rafael Trujillo was assassinated and the family was forced into exile.
Following a transitory period Juan Bosch was elected president in 1962 but he was overthrown in a coup in 1963 and replaced by a three man military junta. They in turn were subject to a coup by Bosch loyalists and peace was only restored when the Americans sent around 20,000 troops into the country.
In June 1966 Joaquín Balaguer was elected and then re-elected twice until 1978. This became a period of economic stability and growth although the gap between rich and poor widened and the government became more unpopular.
Antonio Guzmán Fernández of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) defeated Balaguer in 1978 but he presided over a continuing decline in the economy despite achieving a lot of reforms and expansion to infrastructure. He committed suicide just days before new presidential elections.
Salvador Omar Jorge Blanco of the Dominican Revolutionary Party won the 1982 election but despite a promising start he too suffered from poor economic results and latterly corruption charges. He was replaced by Joaquín Balaguer of the Social Christian Reformist Party (PRSC) in 1986 and he went on to serve until 1996; completing his second full term as president.
In 1996 the presidency changed hands once more in elections when Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) won in the second round. He lost to Hipólito Mejía of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) in 2000 but regained the presidency in 2004 and won again in 2008. His term ends on 16th August 2012.
The President and Vice President are elected on the same ticket for a four year term with the opportunity for a second term.
The bicameral parliament comprises the 183 members of the Chamber of Deputies and 32 members of the Senate all elected for four year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places the Dominican Republic at joint 120th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 31 (where 100 is least corrupt).