By Isaac Risco
HAVANA TIMES — Cuba will hold a parliamentary election on Sunday that should initiate the second term of President Raul Castro, which would start later this month, reported DPA news.
A total of 612 deputies will be elected to the National Assembly of People’s Power. After the elections — rejected by domestic opposition and that should elapse without surprises — it’s estimated that in late February the new legislature will confirm Raul Castro for another five years in power.
If the plan is carried out for limiting the mandates of top officials to a maximum of two consecutive terms, as proposed by Raul Castro in 2011, this upcoming period will be his last five years in office.
The younger Castro formally took office on February 24, 2008, although he had held the position on an interim basis after the retirement of his brother Fidel, who stepped down due to illness in July 2006. Both brothers are among the 612 candidates officially nominated for the National Assembly.
Fidel Castro, 86, tops the list for the municipality of Santiago de Cuba, in the eastern province of that same name. Raul Castro, 81, is running for the Segundo Frente municipality, also in Santiago Province.
In addition to the 612 candidates for the National Assembly, delegates will be elected to the provincial assemblies from among 1,269 candidates.
All nominees are previously elected by municipal delegates on the island and by citizen’s assemblies. Dissidents and countries like the United States reject the elections in Cuban as democratic “farce.” The island doesn’t allow active campaigning or other political formations alongside the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).
Around 8.4 million Cubans are being called to turn out to the polls on Sunday. Voters will be able to vote for one or all the candidates in their district, starting at 6:00 in the morning. According to the official media, voter participation has always been above 95 percent since the first elections held in 1976.
Many Cubans also privately criticize the little influence truly exerted by the legislature over the state apparatus, which is controlled by the Council of State and the top leadership around Raul Castro.
The elections, on the other hand, should continue the process of the rejuvenation of the political cadre led by Raul Castro. The president has repeatedly stressed the need to train new leaders because “time is short.”
Among the most influential politicians of the old guard who is retiring is Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon. The 75-year political has chaired the National Assembly since 1993 and was Fidel Castro’s foreign minister for a year (1992-1993).
Alarcon, who was a member of Fidel Castro’s historic July 26 Movement, is one of Cuba’s experts on relations with the United States.
Among the new faces will be that of Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela Castro, who is running for a position as deputy in Havana. The president’s daughter, 50, is known for her liberal positions in support of gay rights on the island.
Mariela Castro is seen abroad as the more “progressive” face of the Cuban government. It’s estimated, however, that her initiative for the legalization of gay marriage in Cuba was blocked by several historicos (old guard) within the Castro leadership circle.
Around 8.4 million Cubans are being called to turn out to the polls on Sunday. Voters will be able to cast their ballots for the slate or none or some of the candidates in their district, starting at 6:00 in the morning. According to the official media, voter participation has always been above 95 percent since the first elections held in 1976.