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Elections in Cuba: five keys to a controversial and predictable process


This Sunday the 470 members of Parliament are elected. But no surprises are expected. Who are the candidates?

Cuba renews the National Assembly of People's Power on Sunday, in a day in which 470 candidates will seek to place themselves in the same number of seats at stake.

Unlike other countries, there are no authorized opposition political parties or electoral campaigns on the island, so, in essence, Cubans eligible to vote will only

support the previously known list of candidates.

The outcome of the day seems inevitable,

although one indicator that will be closely watched is how many voters abstain.

That number has grown substantially over the past decade, which some critics point to as a reflection of people's economic problems and a distrust of the political system.

Here are some keys to an election that sparked controversy on and off the island.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, candidate for re-election in April.

Photo: AFP

1- Election of Parliament

Some eight million Cubans are authorized to vote this Sunday for the new members of the National Assembly of Popular Power, the unicameral Parliament.

They will choose 470 deputies from a list with the same number of candidates.

Cuba is governed by a socialist political system of a single party - the Communist Party - and although it does not nominate any candidate, the organizations that nominate candidates for a seat in the National Assembly usually have members close to that political force.

Actually, the electoral cycle began in November when the delegates to the Municipal Assemblies -the local governments- were elected from the proposals of residents of each block in the country's neighborhoods and communities.

There were then 26,746 candidates for councilors to fill 12,427 positions.

Now, half of the 470 candidates come from municipal assemblies.

The other 50% are

recognized personalities proposed by unions and social organizations

such as the Women's Federation or the association of small farmers.

The list is consolidated from the work of some candidacy commissions.

2- The criticisms

Critics say the Cuban system is undemocratic and

prevents opposition candidates from running


Officials say it helps unity, prevents the divisions caused by multipartyism, and also prevents any ill effects of spending money on campaigns.

“Who said that democracy means multipartyism?”, an editorial in Granma newspaper, the official organ of the Communist Party, recently asked.

A poster of the Electoral Council of Havana, this Saturday, in the Cuban capital.

Photo: EFE

He criticized that electoral processes in other countries usually win "whoever invests the millionaire amounts collected in unequal campaigns more efficiently, whoever buys more space in the media concert, whoever pours more mud on their rivals."

Critics like the opponent Manuel Cuesta Morúa have another vision.

"It enthrones the control of a single party," said the dissident, who heads the Council for Democratic Transition - without legal status - and who tried, unsuccessfully, to place a candidate for delegate in the municipal elections in November.

The activists denounced pressure from state security agents for the candidate to give up his candidacy.

3- The National Assembly

The National Assembly of People's Power is the highest government body and its functions include electing 

the Executive Power from among its members, approving the country's laws, controlling budgets,

and asking the State administration to account in all spheres.

In practice, the Assembly usually approves the initiatives of the Communist Party, whose mandate is to lead the island's socialist system.

The new Assembly will take office on April 19 and that same day

will vote for the country's new president.

There are no indications that the current president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, will leave office, for which reason

he is expected to be re-elected.

4- The candidates

On the list of future deputies presented a few weeks ago are, for example, President Miguel Díaz-Canel, former president Raúl Castro, and Prime Minister Manuel Marrero.

There is also the musician Eduardo Sosa;

the reference of the LGBT community and daughter of Raúl Castro, Mariela Castro;

the scientist Eduardo Martínez, and even Elián González, who as a child - more than 20 years ago - was the center of a diplomatic battle between Cuba and the United States.

Former Cuban President Raúl Castro is a candidate for the National People's Assembly.

Photo: AFP

But among the candidates

there are also citizens unknown

to the bulk of the population, such as Carlos Miguel Pérez, a 36-year-old computer engineer, owner of a medium-sized company and nominee in the Playa municipality, in the capital.

Perez, who is not a member of the Communist Party, told

The Associated Press

that he accepted the nomination of the telecommunications union, after learning to his dismay that the current Assembly approved a budget for 2023 that raised taxes and limited tax breaks to small and medium-sized businesses like yours.

"It is also necessary that in the Cuban Parliament there is a representation of this sector" private and new to the country, Pérez commented.

"The electoral process, as I see it, is very popular, very popular with the people."

The deputies do not receive a salary for carrying out their function, but they maintain their salary for the other tasks they carry out on a daily basis.

5- Who votes

The requirements to vote are to be over 16 years of age and reside in the country and the registration is automatically carried out by the State.

Voting is secret, but unlike other nations

it is not mandatory

and the ballot boxes are usually guarded by boys and young students.

Nobody expects surprises this Sunday

, so it is practically a fact that the 470 applicants will be confirmed.

However, what has generated attention in recent years is the gradually growing abstention rate.

In the November municipal elections, the National Electoral Commission reported that abstention reached 31.42%, a high figure in relation to previous voting.

In the 2018 national elections, the absence was 14.35% and in 2013 it was only 5.83%.

For some observers, the abstention reflects the discouragement of the people before the deterioration of the economic situation and the criticism towards the government.

Julio Antonio Martínez Estrada, lawyer and visiting professor at Harvard University, considered that there are no signs that abstention is decreasing.

“It is a response to the political and socioeconomic problems of recent years,” he said.

“It has coincided with the migratory crisis, it has coincided with a huge economic crisis, which in turn is the cause of that migratory crisis;

there is a distrust and an enormous hopelessness of taking the country by another path ”.

Source: AP 


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All news articles on 2023-03-26

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