Elections pave way for generational change

Cuba’s National Electoral Commission (CNE) has said that all 605 National Assembly candidates and all 1265 Provincial Assemblies candidates in elections held on March 12, received over 50% of votes cast so had been duly elected. The election paves the way for generational change in the country’s leadership in the coming months.

The CNE reported that 82.9% of registered voters participated in the election. It said that of the total ballots cast 5.6% were spoiled or left blank, but that the number that were valid was higher than seen during the 2012-2013 elections.

Because of Cuba’s electoral system and the way in which candidates are selected, voter turnout and the numbers of spoilt or blank ballots are one of the few ways of measuring the level of popular support for the Government. CEN noted that while the percentage of voters ‘was slightly lower compared to previous elections’ it does not analyse the process as it respects the right of voters whether or not to turn out to vote.

Analysts outside Cuba however, noted that despite the very high turn-out by international standards, the overall figure was the lowest since the present electoral system was introduced in 1976. They also observed that nearly 20% of those voting did not fill in the ‘all candidates’ box, suggesting either reservations about some candidates or a minor revolt in relation to official calls for a single unified vote.

Diaz Canel speaks about the future

In an interesting new but related development, Miguel Diaz Canel, the First Vice President, who is widely regarded as the person most likely to lead Cuba’s Government in future, spent around ten minutes with the media after he voted in Santa Clara.

In an indication of his style and approach he was quoted as saying that “there has to be a focus on ties to, links with, the people, to listen to the people, deeply investigate the problems that exist and inspire debates about those problems”.

The next government, he said, will focus on solving Cuba’s problems. “We are defending a revolution that is still under attack, amid a complicated world and regional situation”. The updating of our economic model, had been “more complex than we thought”, he suggested.

In other comments he said that relations with Washington were deteriorating because of offensive remarks made by the US administration. He deplored Washington’s return to the Monroe Doctrine and the Cold War. Mr Diaz Canel also paid tribute to Cuba’s historic generation.

In a further indication of a change in leadership style, Mr Diaz-Canel waited in line to vote and unusually was accompanied to the polls by his wife Liz Cuesta Peraza, who is the Director of the Department of Academic Services at Paradiso, the cultural tourism agency of the Ministry of Culture.

In contrast, President Castro voted without comment in rural Segundo Frente near Santiago de Cuba. Some reports suggest that he is planning to live in the historic city following his retirement.

Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura, the second secretary of the Communist Party told journalists after voting Guantánamo, that Cuba was in a long-discussed future transition that had been underway since 1959. “Now the change is generational”, he said.

Cuba’s electoral timetable requires provincial assemblies to be constituted on March 25. On April 19 the new members of the Cuban National Assembly will meet and the same day the names of the country’s new President, Vice President and Secretary of the National Assembly, and members of the Council of State, its President, First Vice President and Vice Presidents will be announced.

In the new Assembly, 53% of those elected are women, 13% are under 35 years old; and 40% are younger than 50.

This is an extract from the Caribbean Council’s weekly editorially independent publication, Cuba Briefing, which provides in depth information on current economic, political and commercial developments in Cuba and news on events in Europe and the US that affect the region. Business people, academics, and those with a general interest in Cuba find it an invaluable tool for developing and maintaining knowledge and providing an insight into political, economic and commercial events in the region

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