Why Cuba’s Elections Draw Little Interest

January 28, 2013 | Print Print |

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES — This coming February 3, Cuba will hold one of its every-five-year parliamentary elections. It’s a process that goes almost unnoticed and there are reasons why.

Cuban officials often wonder out loud why their parliamentary elections are barely mentioned in the foreign press. I want to share some of the reasons why the process to elect provincial and national legislators draws so little interest on the island and virtually none abroad.

The top reason for the lackluster balloting is that no issues are discussed by the candidates, who are not allowed to campaign.

The candidates are only permitted to post resumes/synopses of their adult life. Voters are asked to cast their ballot for them because they were selected by nomination committees as the most qualified to support the central government’s policies and programs.

Merits, virtues, dignity. Image: escambray.cu

Merits, virtues, dignity. Image: escambray.cu

Voters have no idea if the candidate has any priorities or new strategies for dealing with the problems and concerns of the citizenry, whether they approve of all government policies 100 percent or if they have any criticisms.

Here’s the punch line: For 612 seats in the National Assembly of People’s Power there are 612 preselected candidates.  For the different Provincial Assemblies of People Power there are a total of 1,269 candidates for 1,269 seats.

Then the National Assembly members will elect a Council of State including the president of the country and several vice presidents.

Voting itself is very easy. Registration is automatic for all citizens 16 or over and over 90 percent of the population routinely vote, which is voluntary, but many believe that those who don’t participate could face future reprisals.

Supporters of the Cuban electoral process often cite the abhorrent million-billion dollar US campaigns as the justification for going to the other extreme and not allowing any campaigning or fundraising in Cuba.

Billboard: Vote for our ideas and our values. photo: radioangulo.cu

Billboard: Vote for our ideas and our values. photo: radioangulo.cu

The concept of a paid politician is absent in Cuba and even the national parliament representatives derive no financial compensation for their civic work, which usually involves two brief three or four day sessions a year.

Since virtually all decisions are made as executive orders by the Council of Ministers, the parliament is relegated to rubber stamping decisions already made and sometimes already implemented.

Virtually all votes are unanimous and any debates among the members are held behind closed doors. Even an abstention is highly rare. This is to say 612 deputies routinely agree with every executive order passed by the Council of Ministers.

Seen as a strength by most of the Party leadership, this type of unity doesn’t wash with a growing segment of the Cuban population, especially its youth, who in turn are apathetic to the process – even if they vote so as to not attract attention.

 


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    When the lot of my Cuban family in Guantanamo gets together (about 15 people) they can’t agree on anything. It is simply not believable that 612 Cubans would ever agree unanimously on anything, let alone 100% of the time unless somehow directed to do so. Also, in all of Cuba, are we really supposed to believe, that no one else even wanted to be President other than a Castro for the last 54 years? When President Raul is inaugurated again in February, do you really believe everyone in the country believes there stands the best man to lead our country? Thanks, Circles, for a nice post based in science fiction.

    • Griffin

      Moses wrote, “are we really supposed to believe, that no one else even wanted to be President other than a Castro for the last 54 years?”

      Not anybody who lived to tell the tale.

  • Griffith

    Why pay any attention to a meaningless charade?

    As today is his birthday, a good quote is fitting:

    “Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think and to speak without hypocrisy” – Jose Marti

  • Dan Christensen

    Cuban voters do, in fact, get a chance to meet each of the candidates for the National Assembly and question them, usually at meetings at their workplaces.

    You also leave out the critical fact that Cuban voters have the option of rejecting every candidate on the ballot and calling for an entirely new slate of candidates — real power that US voters can only dream of. That it never happens is a testament to the candidate nomination process and the confidence that Cuban voters have in their public institutions.

    As for coverage of Cuban elections in the international media, I noticed that the last ones were actually quite widely covered for once (online). They were the first since Fidel stepped down as President for health reasons. I noticed, too, that there was not a hint from any quarter, not even from the fanatically anti-Cuban Miami media, that this was anything but a clean vote.

    In a virtual state of war with with their belligerent superpower neighbour, with its genocidal trade sanctions for over a half-century, it also shouldn’t be surprising that internal discipline requires that much high-level debate in Cuba be held behind closed doors. Despite this, much systematic debate and criticism is happening openly at public meetings at the grass-roots level. I believe the recent lifting of travel restrictions was a direct result of the most recent round of such debates. There have also been many reports in the news media of officially sanctioned farmers’ groups openly criticism government policies, leading to further reforms in that sector.

    Perhaps you are simply disappointed that the debate is not going the direction you and paid dissidents on the island would hope — to dismantle socialism, privatize health care and education, and turn the economy back over to US corporations. It must be embarrassing for the US having a developing country like Cuba consistently besting them in basic health outcomes. Cuba has the best infant mortality rate in the Americans — better, according to the CIA, than the USA and even marginally better than Canada! The infant mortality is widely considered to be the single most reliable indicator of over-all public health.

    • Griffin

      Of course the parliamentary elections were “a clean vote”… there’s no point to anybody cheating, as the outcome is always a foregone conclusion! The only legal political party in Cuba is the Communist party. No other parties, or ideas, need apply.

      There has never been an independent study of Cuba’s medical system to confirm the claims of high standards boasted of in the official propaganda. It is illegal for Cuban doctors and other medical staff to reveal any data which contradicts the official line. Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet was jailed for doing so.

      http://lawtonfoundation.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5&Itemid=2

      There are several reasons why infant mortality is reported to be low in Cuba. First of all, the counting methods are different in Cuba vs the US, Canada and other western countries. In the US, still births are counted as an infant mortality. Not so in Cuba. If Cuba used the same counting methods as the US, the infant mortality rates would be the same.

      Furthermore, Cuba has the highest rate of abortion in the Western hemisphere, which serves to lower infant mortality rates. Any fetus diagnosed to have a genetic or similar complication will be terminated in an abortion. This practice also serves to keep the infant mortality rate low.

      “Abortion Keeps Cuban Infant Mortality Low”
      http://www.pop.org/content/abortion-and-infanticide-in-cuba-1089

      • Dan Christensen

        The elections are clean, as you point out, and voters have the option of rejecting every candidate on the ballot in national elections and calling for an entirely new slate of candidates — real power US voters can only dream of.

        By law, the Communist Party can play no roll in the electoral process. It can neither nominate, finance nor endorse any candidate. The entire nomination process takes place at the grass-roots level. In a very real sense, the Cuban electoral system can be seen as a “no-money, no-party” system.

        And sadly, for you, not even the CIA seems to have bought into your lies and disinformation about Cuban health stats. They know they would instantly lose all credibility if they did. The bias of your source is revealed by equating free access to abortion, something that is a fundamental right of women in Canada and Europe, with being “anti-life.”

        Readers should also know, for example, that Cuba’s record on bringing babies of HIV-infected mothers to full term is exemplary. They are not automatically aborted as your “sources” seem to suggest. On the contrary, all the necessary resources are devoted to safeguarding the life of the fetus. See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/sci_tech/2003/denver_2003/2770631.stm

        • Griffin

          Your source failed to mention the Cuban program for quarantining those tested positive for HIV was not voluntary. In the first years of the program, all were forcibly quarantined, even if they showed no signs of AIDS. It was only several years later that the patients were given the option of leaving these hospitals.

          The method was harshly criticized from a human rights perspective, even though it did contain the disease. Given that glaring omission, the rest of her report is suspect as well.

          • Dan Christensen

            My source is the BBC. (Just one of thousands of others on Google along the same line.) Kind of trumps your handful of exile mafia propaganda sites doesn’t it? Not even the CIA is buying into your BS these days. That’s gotta hurt!

          • Griffin

            You can sneer at my sources all you want, because you cannot refute the facts in them.

            You proclaim the authority of the BBC as all the proof you need, yet the Beeb can print sloppy reporting as often as the next source. I refute the report because it misses well known information and reads like a topical Cuban gov’t propaganda piece, right down to the trite slogans and cliches.

            It doesn’t hurt at all.

          • Dan Christensen

            To you, they may be “slogans,” but these well documented claims represent the overwhelming consensus of expert opinion. Yeah, I know, you don’t believe in “experts,” but not even your CIA dares to publicly question them for fear of exposing themselves to the international ridicule. You should learn from them, Griffy.

          • CUBAQUS

            What is “well documented” is the the Cuban so-called elections are a sham and totally controlled by the regime.”The UN’s assessment of the so called elections is correct:
            “the electoral process is so tightly controlled that the final phase, the voting itself, could be dispensed with without the final result being substantially affected”
            See: E/CN.4/1998/69

            For the local elections candidates are nominated in open meetings run by the CDR (Committees to Defend the Revolution) [1] that are closely linked to police and security forces. They report and sanction dissent. Prison terms of 4 years threaten those that openly oppose the regime [2] in that public meeting filled with informants. People not supporting can be threatened with losing their home [3], job, ….

            These “candidates” then are to be approved by “electoral committees” stuffed with representatives of the
            communists front organizations (see the Cuban electoral law) [4].
            For national elections the local “elected candidates” at the local level can “select” candidates from a restricted list drawn up by the communist front organizations [5].”

            http://www.cubaverdad.net/elections_in_cuba.htm

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Goodrich/100003362238330 John Goodrich

        The turnout for most Cuban elections is in the90% range or better.

        Were Cubans of a mind that their vote is of no value, they would stay home or cast a blank or defaced ballot which, as I recall, usually is in the 3% range.

        In the U.S only half the eligible voters go to the polls even in high visibility presidential elections.

        • Moses Patterson

          John, my wife voted in many Cuban elections. She, like most Cubans, believed that if they cast a blank or defaced ballot, somehow there would be negative consequences. When Cubans didn’t vote, for whatever reason, they would get a knock on the door from their CDR representative. Cubans, like my wife, whose jobs depended on remaining in good standing with the CDR and the Party did not dare miss an election. Sounds ridiculous right? Not to Cubans.