HAVANA TIMES – Cuba will have a new president of the Republic as of October 10th, for the first time since 1976. The election of the Cuban State’s main leaders will take place in a closed National Assembly session, its members electing these figures amongst themselves.
The last official to hold this title in Cuba was Osvaldo Dorticos Torrado, the lawyer who replaced Manuel Urrutia Lleo in 1959, after a conflict Urrutia had with then prime minister Fidel Castro.
After the 1976 Constitution came into force, the title of the person leading the country changed its name to “President of the State Council and Council of Ministers”, a figure who was responsible for leading both of these deliberative under the principle of “collective” management.
Fidel Castro occupied the position ever since it was established until he resigned for health reasons, in July 2006; then it was filled by his brother, Raul Castro, from 2008 until 2018, and from April 19th 2018 until the present day, by Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel.
Diaz-Canel should be the person elected for the comeback of this political figure, who now has new duties, according to the new Constitution approved the constitutional referendum held on February 24, 2019.
Diaz-Canel’s election will come as no surprise. According to the head of the Cuban Communist Party, Raul Castro, the highest political position in the country, Diaz-Canel was “the only survivor” of a group of 12 leaders who have been tested out since the 1990s, as possible replacements of the so-called “Historic Generation”.
Having been successful in his core leadership of the Communist Youth, and then the Communist Party in two provinces (one of them, the third largest in the country), a ministry (that of Higher Education), a vice-presidency at the Council of Ministers and, lastly, the first vice-presidency of the State Council and Council of Ministers, the electronics engineer, originally from Santa Clara, managed to reassure the Politburo and make them feel like they were “absolutely right” about “having hit the nail on the head” with his election to replace Gen. Raul Castro.
In his farewell speech as president on April 19th 2018, Raul clearly set out the road map for leading the State in upcoming years: presidents of the country can hold two consecutive five-year terms and will also become the highest leader of the Communist Party, two or three years after their initial election.
This is what he is thinking about doing with Diaz-Canel, once he transfers the Party’s control over during the Congress that will take place in 2021.
“When he has held two presidential terms, if he works well, and our Party’s Central Committee and the State’s supreme body of power, which is the Assembly we are members of, approves it, he should stay in power. The same thing we’re doing now, he has to hold onto it with his replacement. After his 10 years as president of the State Council and the Council of Ministers, he will remain as the first secretary of the Party in the three years he has left, until the Congress, in order to make sure the hand-over is safe and saving us any surprises with his replacement (…).”
Thus, the October 10th elections have only one presidential candidate. There won’t be any surprises.
Changes might only come in the election of other positions that are also up for new figures, which will also be elected among lawmakers on this day. As well as the president, a new vice-president of the country will be elected, as will be a new president, vice-president and secretary of the National Assembly, who will also become the president, vice-president and secretary of a new State Council with only 21 members, instead of the 31 members it currently has.
Options for these positions normally float around amongst analysts, as the new leader will also have to present a Council of Ministers in the next few months. He/she will become the prime minister of (a position scrapped in 1976), and will also be the Head of Government.
This October 10th election is the first chance we have to work out weights and counterweights, balances of power and political groups, from guesswork and speculation, as the public image of Cuba’s entire state apparatus is homogeneous and monolithic.
Nevertheless, the age and health problems of figures such as current first vice-president Salvador Valdes Mesa, and the president of the National Assembly, Esteban Lazo, suppose that they could be replaced by younger figures or figures who have just come to the spotlight, which we have seen with the appointment of Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca as the vice-president of the Council of Ministers, replacing Ulises Rosales del Toro, as well as the protagonist role secretary of the State Council, Homero Acosta, has had during and after the constitutional reforms process.
The final transitional provisions in the new Constitution that took effect on April 10th, seem to indicate that the National Assembly will have to pass a new Electoral Bill, in the next six months. Once that Law is approved, the main authorities of the country will have to be elected in the three months that follow. This timeframe has been respected up until now.
The new Constitution also stipulated that all lawmakers will hold onto their positions until the end of their term (2023), but the authorities won’t, as their functions will change quite radically. This is the election we have now.
Seeing as this is the case, and assuming that Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel becomes president of the Republic on October 10th, he will be taking on his first presidential term, as the position he has held until now (which is comparable to the Head of State), has nothing to do with the position that was created and limited to two consecutive 5-year terms by the current Constitution in force. Having served these two terms, up until 2029, he would have been president for 11 and a half years.
After October 10th, we will have a president of the Republic again in Cuba, a person who can make individual decisions, without having to have them approved, even formally, by the State Council and will be able to issue presidential decrees. The face of the Cuban State continues to change.