10 Truths about Cuba’s General Elections

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By: Sean J. Clancy / The Dawn News / November 10, 2017

In 2018, Cuba will hold elections to renew the seats of the National Assembly, all of the deputies and provincial delegates for the following five years.

The new National Assembly will, in turn, elect the State Council and appoint a new president. Raúl Castro, current president of Cuba, has announced he won’t run for another term.

Photo credit: Radio Bayamo

(1) Cuba’s elections are organized and conducted in two stages on a ‘No Party’, as opposed to (and as often suggested) a ‘One Party’ basis. The Cuban Communist Party (PCC) is not a political party in the sense that this term is generally understood and no Communist Party (or any other Party) candidates stand for election.

This system avoids many inequities and imbalances inherent in its party-political based counterparts and ensures a fairer and more — rather than less — democratic electoral process.

Local government Candidates are selected during the first stage on personal merit by their neighbors and peers in an open and transparent community based process and elected by secret ballot on polling day.

(2) Candidates can neither – nor do they need to — raise nor spend any funds nor offer any favors on election campaigns and all — regardless of their political, social or economic status — are granted equal access to all voters and media.

(3) Information about each candidate and their attributes, experience, qualifications, suitability and ability are posted with a corresponding passport photograph in a uniformed CV style presentation in public buildings and spaces to which all voters have access.

(4) People are encouraged to participate in the democratic process which is very well organized, supervised and secure. Voting is not obligatory, but in excess of 90% of the electorate have traditionally participated voluntarily in the polls. In a country where migration is an integral part of the societal fabric, the actual turnout is often even higher than recorded, because of the presence on the register of people not in the country on voting day.

(5) Voters can vote for one, any or all of the candidates on the ballot sheet. Each candidate needs to secure more than 51% of the popular vote to be elected, even when ‘first past the post’. When no candidate in a designated area reaches the quota, a second round is held

(6) Participation in Politics in Cuba is essentially a part-time (but nonetheless time consuming) unpaid and voluntary act of public service, rather than a materially motivated career choice and it involves self sacrifice and effort.

Parliamentarians seconded from their jobs onto one of the full time commissions that undertake the legislative administration of the State receive the same salary paid prior to their secondment and return to their posts once the relevant Commission’s work has been concluded.

(7) Cuba’s electoral and democratic model is ‘Participatory” rather than ‘Representative’ and prior to the passing of significant new laws for example, legislators often consider thousands of proposals, suggestions and concerns, raised by literally millions of citizens at hundreds of nationwide grass-roots meetings and internal mass organization consultations.

Informed popular opinion does not determine political decision making, but it is given a degree of due consideration absent in most other supposedly ‘superior’ systems.

(8) Candidates for election during the second stage of the electoral process to the provincial and single chamber national assembly are carefully selected by qualified members of Cuba’s representative mass organizations, including (but not only) the Cuban Congress of Trade Unions, the Federation of Cuban Women, the two Students Unions and the Farmers Organization.

Up to 50% of these candidates, who form the foundation of the higher assemblies, will already have been elected to local governments and these will stand again in their home constituencies. The remaining candidates are nominated and selected on merit and can stand in the constituency that would most benefit from their particular skill sets, experience and political proposals and where they are deemed to be most needed.

(9) All deputies give an account of their endeavors on behalf of their constituents and relay information about local and national political developments and events at neighborhood based assemblies, during which constituents freely (and often vociferously) express their views about everything from refuse collection and street lighting to national taxation policy, the scourge of bureaucracy and world affairs.

(10) Cuba’s unique and sovereign electoral model ensures that no elected deputy or appointed official is in a position to offer political or administrative favors in return for monetary or material reward. The Cuban model is probably more corruption free than any global counterpart and although — like every other — not without its imperfections and critics, it is a democratic and electoral process from which a lot can be learned and within which there is a lot to be lauded.

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