Ever Wonder What Elections Were About in Cuba?
If you haven’t bought the propaganda that there are no
elections in Cuba, I’m sure you have.
by Merri Ansara, February 16, 2018
It’s so interesting to be here during the time of nomination (January) and now consideration of the candidates for 6 weeks until the March 11 elections for National Assembly. While everyday life goes on seemingly unperturbed, there was a strong undercurrent of hopefulness and anticipation as the candidates were rolled out at the start of the month. This is the big one, the one where there will be a new president. More it is the first generational change in top leadership since the start of the Revolution.
A lot of hard work at all levels has gone into preparing for these elections over the past year or year and a half and the rollout was accompanied by a lot of fanfare.
There are a number of things the elections are not.
These are slate elections, not competitive elections. These are not party elections with varying platforms from which to choose. The Communist Party sets the direction and goals for the country and so voting the party up or down is not at play. Not all candidates for the National Assembly are in the Communist Party or even in the Communist Youth. As membership in the party is considered a badge of honor and merit rather than an affiliation (see below as to how people join the party), it is weighed among other criteria as the electoral commission tries to achieve a balance of representation of the existing society. A complicated concept for those of us with a different set if criteria.
(In Cuba, joining the party is a rigorous process of nomination, review, probation, and approval. Obviously, some bad apples slip through but it is considered a privilege and responsibility, not a bene to be in the party, not a right of position or privilege, and there are as many simple workers in the party as so-called elites).
There is no individual campaigning. The fact that these are block (slate) elections, of course, makes such competition unnecessary. You are voting up or down.
Here is what the elections are.
The first step in the national election process took place late January, as I said. 12,000 candidates were proposed in 970 meetings of the mass organizations — Cuban Central Trade Organization, Committees for Defense of the Revolution, The Cuban Women’s Federation, The National Small Farmers’ Association, the University Students Federation, and the High School Students Federation.
The Election Commision with subcommissions throughout the country at the provincial and local levels then sifted through the 12,000 visiting the institutions, organizations and work centers of the nominees as well as the neighborhoods in which they live, conducting interviews and collecting opinions and impressions. The goal was to ensure the proposal included 50 % municipal assembly representatives, members of civil society, candidates representative of the varying interests at the local, provincial and national level.
The findings then went district by district to the 168 Municipal Assemblies (12,515 local representatives who been voted in at the municipal level in the fall elections ) who then made the final nominations for their districts. All voters 16 or over in each district will be voting (up or down) for the candidates to represent their district in the National Assembly. Voting is not compulsory but usually is between 87 and 95%.
And if you think this sounds complicated, it sure seems so to me too and I hope I haven’t gotten any of it wrong. (You can see the Cubans national elections site on the web, with charts and graphs, www.cubaenelecciones.cu or at www.cubadebate.com)
So where have we ended up?
287 of the 605 candidates to National Assembly (47.4%) are currently local delegates to the municipal assemblies. Every district has at least two candidates, one of which is a local delegate.
338 of the nominees are first-time candidates
The average age is 49, with 80 candidates between 18 and 35 years of age.
53.2% of the candidates are women.
38% are considered Afro Cuban or mestizo.
The historic generation of the Revolution is well represented but 89.25% of candidates were born after the Revolution, that is after Jan 1, 1959.
Other than ensuring that every district has at least one delegate? The further breakdown on the election website mentioned previously is
28 are farmers or members of farming cooperatives
24 are in scientific and other kinds of research
12 are in sports
47 are in education
22 in the armed forces
4 are small private business entrepreneurs or self-employed
39 are local, provincial or national leaders of mass organizations (such as CDR, FMC)
11 are leaders of social or civic organizations
9 are student leaders
4 are members if religious organizations
46 are political body leaders
7 are judges or other members of the justice system
41 are members of the government, meaning ministers or similar kinds of posts
22 are members of fiscal, administrative and other types of bureaucratic offices
That may not add up to 605 as I may have missed some. You can go yourselves to www.eleccionesencuba.cu and see anything I’ve missed. For instance, I haven’t noticed who’re candidates from culture and the arts, and I won’t have a chance to sort that out before sending this.
So there is no campaigning as I think I said.
Still, as everyone is voting for candidates from their own district, if people have gone to any of the neighborhood meetings, or pay attention to sports, news, or television many of the candidates will be known.
Candidates have been posted in the newspapers with their pictures, age, occupation and organizational affiliations, and in special voting supplements. All candidates are also posted in multiple locations in the district where they are candidates, with the same information and alongside, a list of voters in that district (everyone over the age of 16). All candidates are also posted on television repeatedly throughout the day, province by province, 3 at a time.
The big question, of course, is who will be president. The president is elected by the new National Assembly once seated, so it will be April.
Speculation is rampant, centering not just on the so-called obvious successor, Vice President Diaz Canal but on two others in leadership, one in Havana and one in Santiago, both young and very well liked.
What we do know (we think) is that for the first time in Cuban history since the Revolution it won’t be a Castro. And it won’t be a member of what’s known as the historic generation.
It’s a very exciting time to be in Cuba. No one can be sure what’s ahead and while the country is moving ahead slowly along its chosen path, too slowly for many, moving ahead it is. Despite the local defeatists, cynics and naysayers one encounters, there’s still a sense of peace and stability rather than uncertainty and not either a sense of resignation. As a friend and strong supporter of the Revolution told me yesterday after a heated discussion with his 35-year-old son, “He told me, ‘look, Dad, we don’t agree on a lot of things but it’s still my country and my Revolution too. When push comes to shove, if anything happens you know I will be with you on the same side.'” Which he took to mean that even for the discontented youth, dignity, sovereignty, peace and well being are the paramount values and vision.
As I face going home to the cynical cartoon of government in Washington, the aftermath of another mass shooting in a school, and all the uncertainties we face on a daily basis, it’s a vision I wish I could look forward to too.
Havana February 16, 2018
As written with one finger on a phone, please excuse all typos. Please also excuse and feel free to forward verified corrections.
Please also forward to anyone you feel will be interested