HAVANA (AP) — Cubans came out on Sunday to vote to renew the National Assembly of People’s Power, their unicameral Parliament, in a day that takes place in the midst of a strong economic and immigration crisis.
Some 8.1 million islanders were empowered to exercise their suffrage in some 23,648 schools established throughout the country to choose among 470 candidates for deputies with the same number of seats in Parliament.RELATED
The outcome of the day seems inevitable, although one indicator that will be closely watched is how many voters abstain. That number has grown over the past decade, which some critics point to as a reflection of people’s economic problems and a distrust of the political system.
The electoral model on the island does not contemplate the participation of political parties or electoral campaigns as in other countries, which has historically generated criticism from opponents, who on this occasion called for abstention, especially on social networks. The rulers, meanwhile, defend it alleging that it is representative and popular.
The authorities indicated that some 100,000 people were deployed to control the polling stations and supervise the voting, which began at seven in the morning local time. The tables are guarded by primary school children. Voting is secret but not compulsory on the island.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who the day before was at the Ibero-American Summit in the Dominican Republic, cast his vote in his native province of Villa Clara, where he was accompanied by his wife, Lis Cuesta.
The ruler acknowledged before local journalists the economic difficulties – shortages, power cuts, lack of fuel – in the midst of which the day unfolds.
“Some may put the economic situation ahead, but most people know that despite the difficult economic situation it is working together (how problems are faced), if we were once again a colony of the United States the problems would only go away. increase, if everything was privatized, what would be the future of young people?”, he pointed out.
The process actually began in November with the nomination and voting block by block or by community of municipal representatives – a level of councilors – for the formation of local governments from which many of the names on the current list emerged.
By law, 50% of the current candidates for deputies come from this grassroots level throughout the country, the other half, who are usually prominent personalities —from artists and scientists to generals— are proposed by candidacy commissions made up of the Central de Cuban workers and social and neighborhood organizations, which have finished forming the lists of the 470 applicants.
The Communist Party, the only one with legal status in Cuba, does not present nominations but many of the organizations of the nomination commissions are related to it.
On the list of future deputies presented a few weeks ago are Díaz-Canel, former president Raúl Castro, and Prime Minister Manuel Marrero, among others.
Parliament will be constituted on April 19 and the highest leadership of the Executive, the president, the vice president and the Council of State will come out of it.
One of the arguments put forward by the authorities regarding the absence of electoral political parties in Cuba is that, according to what they say, they seek to avoid the fragmentation and corruption supposedly promoted by them and counteract possible interference by the United States, whose sanctions of more than 60-year-olds hardened in the past administration of former President Donald Trump.
Although it is low in relation to other Latin American countries, abstention has been growing in recent processes, even reaching 31% in the November municipal elections. In addition to the dissent and/or calls for abstention from dissident groups, hundreds of thousands of people who emigrated in recent months – some 300,000 to the United States alone – will not be able to vote, which would increase absenteeism.