HAVANA TIMES – This Sunday, March 11th, Cuba celebrates a historic parliamentary election because it means the end of Raul Castro’s presidency, although he is expected to stay at the head of the all-powerful Communist Party of Cuba. But how is the president of Cuba elected? Here dpa news tries to clarify some doubts.
What are the requirements to be a candidate for a legislative seat?
The official organizations that group together intellectuals, students or women propose candidates to a Nominating Committee. Once these are approved by the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power they are put on the ballots. To be elected to the one chamber National Assembly is necessary to be 18 years old and have resided in the country during the last two years prior to the election, among other requirements. You do not need to reside in the municipality or province that you technically represent.
How are the deputies elected?
To exercise the right to vote you must be at least 16 years old. The voting is direct and secret; the candidates need to get more than 50 percent support from the voters so they do not have to go to a second round. The mandate is for five years. For every deputy seat there is only one candidate.
To be a deputy do you have to be a member of the Cuban Communist Party?
Belonging to the Communist Party is not a requirement to be a deputy, although most representatives are. Of the 605 candidates to elect 605 Cuban deputies on the March 11th ballots, 548 (90.7%) are members of the communist organization.
No campaigning is allowed and there is no public discussion of issues. It is a given that all of the selected candidates will approve government policies and continue the tradition of unanimous voting in the National Assembly.
Who makes the electoral lists?
The National Candidacy Commission is the one that forms the final ballot of the 605 deputies who stand for a seat in the National Assembly. The commission is chaired by an official of the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC, the Cuban Workers Federation), and includes representatives of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), the Association of Small Farmers (ANAP), the University Student Federation (FEU) and the Federation of High School Students (FEEM).
Is the president chosen directly?
In Cuba there are no presidential elections, but deputies are elected who, among themselves, elect the president of the Council of State, which in turn is the president of the Council of Ministers and head of state.
What is the Council of State?
It is the body that acts on behalf of the National Assembly during the year since the Assembly only meets for 1 or 2 days twice a year, when it unanimously ratifies the decrees of the Council of State. It consists of 30 people and has the power to issue decree-laws, approve pardons, declare war and peace, appoint diplomats abroad and receive credentials from representatives of other countries, among other competences.
How does Parliament work?
The plenary meets briefly only twice a year, normally every six months. In the last annual session, the State budget is approved for the following fiscal year. The rest of the year, the deputies work in the parliamentary committees to which they are attached and for which they do not receive a salary, but maintain the pay from their work centers for the days they are absent.