Cuba’s Legislative Elections: Victory or Farce?
By Francisco Acevedo
HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban Government’s policy of wanting to turn reverses into a victory is commonplace. This was a slogan that was used a lot during the Fidel Castro era to dress up the failed attack on the Moncada Barracks (1953) to the Rafters’ Crisis (1994), as well as the 10-million ton sugar harvest flop (1970).
Elections were held on March 26th to approve members of Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power (Parliament), and the pro-government press presented the worst turnout statistics in history as a success.
The hashtag “Cubaganó” (Cuba won), was permanently up in the top right corner of the screen on ever Cuban TV channel for the whole week, as if it were a baseball game.
The fact 6,164,876 Cubans (75.87% of elegible voters) went to the polls was a success for the Government, as it was more than the poor turnout a few months ago for the Family Act referendum, which set a new record for the lowest turnout in the archipelago’s electoral history, and the latest municipal elections, with abstention accounting for 31.5% of the vote.
The majority of Cuba’s 8,129,321 elegible voters going to the polls “voluntarily” on March 26th is considered a success, despite the fact that this means that one out of every four Cubans who were summoned to go and vote didn’t.
We all know how this “voluntary” business works, because while the Penal Code doesn’t outline sanctions for those who choose not to vote, thousands of people were mobilized on that day to go and knock on the doors of people who still hadn’t gone down to the polling station in the afternoon.
Plus, government worksplaces receive information about who didn’t show up at the elections, and there are more or less obvious reprimands, of course.
The government press doesn’t point out that these numbers are significantly lower than those recorded during the 2018 legislative elections, which had a turnout of 85.65% of the total voting population.
They say that if you look at other countries in the region, the 75.87% that voted in Cuba is much higher than voter turnout in most of these.
Reading between the lines
If you add the people who didn’t vote to those who spoiled their ballot, the number of people who didn’t support the official call rises to 33.85% of the entire electorate, as 6.22% left their ballot papers blank and 3.5% of them were spoilt.
As always, let’s remember that an important group of voters are State employees who don’t want to risk being “marked” by not going to vote, so they express their rejection by spoiling their vote.
As long as this process is anonymous, it’s the best way for people who depend on the Government even though they reject it, to express their discontent. However, I’m sure many of them would have preferred not to leave their homes on that day.
So, the level of rejection was pretty much similar to that recorded in the election last November, although turnout at polling stations was slightly higher. In terms of numbers, almost three million of the eight million Cubans who are eligible to vote decided not to vote for all of the candidates, which State propaganda had been insisting on as a patriotic duty for over two months.
To give you an idea of the farce, there were 470 candidates for 470 National Assembly seats.
This disconnection between the Cuban people, the leaders and institutions is also linked to the poor relationship lawmakers and voters after months of blackouts and all kinds of material shortages, which the Parliament members have done nothing to remedy.
Not forgetting that the list of candidates is full of old people who have nothing to offer the younger generations that isn’t more of the same from a system that keeps them in poverty and without any hope of real change.
Everyone on this list was elected, because they only have to receive 50% of valid votes, and that’s what happened. Clearly, the electoral system has been designed in a way that it’s practically impossible for nominated candidates to be rejected, because over half of the voters need to vote against them for this to happen.
The list includes 62-year-old President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who already has a free pass to a second term in office on April 19th, when the National Assembly is established to elect a “new” Government.