Should Cuba Repeat The Same, Old Elections?

The democratization of Cuba has been a pending, national demand since 1952.

Pedro Campos

Illustration by Yasser Castellanos from his series titled Cubanos de a pie (Everyday Cubans).

HAVANA TIMES — The municipal elections of Cuba’s People’s Power Assemblies will be held this coming April 19th. As in all previous elections, it is a question of choosing a representative that sits with their arms crossed, whose sole function is to give the process the semblance of legitimacy, to give credence to the claim that they were elected directly by the people in each of the different jurisdictions.

The electoral commission appointed in each of these jurisdictions is to ensure that the “suitable candidate” is advanced and elected, and it will be paying close attention to any move in support of a proposal that does not respond to “the interests of the revolution.” The candidates’ bios, demonstrating their “loyalty to the revolution,” will be the only information citizens will have at their disposal to choose the municipal assembly representatives.

In turn, these assemblies will elect their respective chairs from among the candidates advanced by the municipal commissions of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and their subordinate organizations.

Then, in 2017, we will hold elections to choose the provincial and national representatives, from among candidates who have been pre-selected by commissions run by the PCC and their “conveyor belts”, as Marxism-Leninism calls civil society organizations subordinate to and financed by the Party/government/State.

The Provincial and National Assembly representatives will be elected directly by citizens, that’s true. But people will vote for candidates who have been pre-selected by Cuba’s one party, at all levels. There will be no spaces left blank and there will be only one name on the ballet for each position. Once again, no one will know what plans these candidates have to solve the problems of their province or the nation – we will only be sure that they are to follow the policies advanced by the Party leadership.

The Provincial Assemblies will then elect the governors (provincial chairs) on the basis of a proposal advanced by the candidacy commission controlled by the Party at that level.

Elections in Cuba. Photo:

The National Assembly will then elect the president and vice president of the republic based on the proposal from the Party Politburo.

Neither mayors, nor governors nor the president of the country will be elected through a direct and secret citizen vote.

None of the candidates elected at different levels of government will defend any independent political, economic or social program, as all are expected to work to implement the Guidelines approved by the PCC, which is the body that stands above all popular sovereignty and is responsible for directing the course of the nation, according to Article 5 of the current constitution.

Any change to the current electoral law that does not entail the previous establishment of freedom of expression, association and election and maintains the premises of the single-party system, indirect vote, commissions and pre-selected candidates and the absence of any information about the candidates’ political programs, cannot guarantee a truly democratic and independent electoral process.

So, why hold the same old elections again? To continue to have the same results?

Those who want to change things stop using the same old means and methods. Those who do not want to change anything (and say they do) continue to do the same thing. It’s not that some are wiser than others, it’s simply that some want change and others do not. Without a doubt, there is wisdom to be found in doing things so that nothing will change.

Raul Castro has set out to define his government on the basis of austerity. This would be a good opportunity to put that austerity into practice and, rather than hold the same old elections and show that the government is truly willing to implement change, save on the expenses generated by this Soviet-styled election process and turn the situation around.

The road to follow could be the creation of a political atmosphere characterized by mutual trust and freedom of expression, association and election, an environment where a truly inclusive dialogue is possible. In addition, a new referendum for the establishment of a legally-constituted State should be held, and an electoral law should be passed that guarantees different political currents the right to defend their programs and advance their candidates in truly democratic, multi-party and free elections. The constitution and electoral law must be discussed in a broad, horizontal and free debate, and then approved through a nationwide referendum.

Illustration by Yasser Castellanos

This process, leading up to the new elections, could take more or less a year, or the time left in Raul Castro’s presidency. It would be a democratic opening that the majority of the people would be grateful for, though the old mentality that the president himself has asked us to leave behind does not seem capable of generating any initiatives in this direction.

The Communist Party, convinced it’s done the best for the Cuban people over the past half century, and sure of its broad, popular support, should not fear losing the support of the majority in truly democratic and free elections.

This way, it would do justice to the demand of the Cuban people who took up arms against Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship, which had suspended the constitution through its coup in March of 1952. The government that took power following the revolution of 1959 put aside the national demand for democratization, because its leaders decided to prioritize its social program and the new “socialist” course, leading to the counterrevolution, imperialist aggression and the blockade/embargo (all of which have been used to justify postponing such democratization).

This process, coupled with the removal of all obstacles, monopolies and regulations that curtail the country’s productive forces, that prevent people from enjoying Internet access, that bar medical doctors, dentists, architects, lawyers and other professionals from having their own, private practices, that hamper the development of independent cooperatives and other forms of free associated labor, that maintain the State wage system as the main axis of the economy and thwart the development of other needed forms of production and investment, is the only quick road to a society that includes everyone and works for everyone’s benefit.

Those who call for the democratization of Cuban society, no matter what our political tendency and without the need to waive or identity or renounce to our mid and long-term programs, could agree to the following, basic platform: 1. A nationwide debate characterized by freedom of expression, association and election. 2. A new constitution. 3. A constitutional State and 4. A new electoral law.

Cover photo:

16 thoughts on “Should Cuba Repeat The Same, Old Elections?

  • You might take a look at “Attack of the Puppet People,” c.1958 on YouTube (just the trailer, not the entire film, unless you have ingested some hash brownies and can spend an hour-and-a-hald laughing at/with this campy film!).

  • Quereis democracia partidária? Ignorais que os Partidos representam interesses opostos, contraditórios onde o povo vota e depois passivamente obedece?. Onde os Partidos defendem interesses das classes que representam e que exploram o povo enganando-o com falsas promessas que nunca serão cumpridas? Que são os ricos os donos dos jornais e das televisões e que enganam o povo a toda a hora com falsas miragens de um eldorado que existe apenas para quem manda na sociedade? É isso que quereis?. É precisamente esse modelo de capitalismo que temos de combater e cada vez com mais força.

  • So in your “democracy” only socialists are allowed? And who gets to define “democracy” and “socialist”?

    What you advocate is the continuation of dictatorship.

  • You use mistaken historical examples to support your weak argument. Hitler is not an example of democracy. He is an example of a dictator cheating his way into power and then destroying democracy. As a Cuban, you should be familiar with that type.

    In November 1932, the Nazis received 33% of the seats in the Reichstag. The Communists had 17%. Together they made it impossible for a functioning government to be formed. Hitler was chosen as Chancellor as a compromise candidate. Once he assumed office, Hitler burned down the Reichstag, blamed the Socialists & Communists, and declared himself Dictator.

    Democracy is only one element of a political system. To be a healthy functioning state, the country must also have a constitution which guarantees the rights and freedoms of the people, defines and limits the powers of the government and defines the institutions and procedures of the state.

    Words like “democracy” and “socialism” have been used by many different people to mean many different things. That does not mean the words are meaningless or the ideas they represent are invalid. All it means is that labels are lies unless backed up by real rights and freedoms.

  • As Deng Xiao Ping once said “Why does it matter what color is the cat as long as it catches mice”. Democracy is just a name for a type of government, a meaningless word thrown around by every despotic government that holds “elections” in order to justify its power. Hitler won his elections and so did Mussolini, so what is so special about “Democracy” in Cuba that would make it the main demand of the USA in its negotiations to normalize all relations? We had “Democracy” in Cuba before the Revolution and it did not work. But Cuba’s current form of government is not working well either and the People are demanding Change. I agree that Change is coming but whatever it is, it has to work for the Cuban People who have suffered long enough under the Blockade and the mismanagement of the economy. Cuba needs more: affordable housing, fairly compensated employment, small business, better management and maintenance of the economy in general and the education and public health systems, just application of the laws and extensive repairs to its infrastructure and housing. The Cuban People, or any other People would be happy with any form of government that could provide all that.

  • The Cuban parliament….you mean the tuner stamp committee, where bills and policy are ratified, in many instances, even after the policy has been implemented. its just a bi joke, and we Cubans know it.

  • There is a word used to describe what you suggest (and I agree) will succeed Raul’s presidency. PUPPET.

  • Don’t count out the establishment of a leadership rotation similar to China once Raul retires. As long as their retirement is protected, they will not install a permanent successor with the same privilege they enjoyed. In fact ruling through a term limited successor would ensure they remain King makers until the end.

    These are men in their mid to late 80’s. Pulling off another 20 years would be hard for these two.

  • Be very careful of that word ‘Change’. It gets bandied about in every country by the electorate who are bored with the present government, are NEVER satisfied with any achievements and always want the government to ‘change’. Change simply means a different man at the top but the same old, same old problems. And do Cubans REALLY want a battle every time elections are held, for a two or three-party system where all that happens is that they all bicker and throw mud at each other? All you need is an agreement from the communist government of Cuba that they will allow free enterprise in order to let people earn more. Once diplomatic relations are restored between Cuba and the Western world, and trade becomes the norm, the economy will improve as a matter of course and with it will go the increase in everyone’s standard of living. You don’t need ‘democratic and free elections’ to make this happen. What will it prove? What will it gain you? Take a look at non-communist political systems and appreciate that it’s not the answer.

  • Fore the ingorant mercenaries, an outside analysis of elections in Cuba…US elections are controlled by the 1 per cent no real democracy unless you believe in fairy tales…
    “The elections to the Cuban Parliament, or the National Assembly of People’s
    Power (ANPP), took place on February 3, 2013. The voting trends, tendencies
    and weaknesses in the electoral system identified in my recent book-length study
    of elections from 1993–2008 have been confirmed by the 2013 voting results
    (August, 2013).1 This kind of detailed endeavour, although virtually unique,
    is worthwhile, especially in light of the disinformation and misinformation
    disseminated by supporters of ‘regime change’ in Cuba across the spectrum from
    the so-called ‘left’ to the right, who replace facts, figures and a balanced analysis
    with clichés and ignorance.’

  • The Castro dinasty knows that in an open elections they would lose. The Cuban people wants Changes.

  • Multiple political positions should be presented to the Cuban electorate– within the context of building a socialist society. Otherwise, U.S. business interests will spend huge amounts of money to distort elections in Cuba as they already do in the U.S. which is now a plutocracy rather than a democracy

  • Pedro wrote,

    “The government that took power following the revolution of 1959 put aside the national demand for democratization, because its leaders decided…”

    …to establish a monopoly on all political power in Cuba. Period. As Fidel Castro explained to his close circle of lieutenants, “We didn’t win a revolution just so we could lose an election.”

    The democratization of Cuban society is a great and noble goal to demand. However, true democratization cannot exist in a vacuum without all the other attendant political rights and freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of association, economic freedom, free & independent labour unions, religious freedom, and the right to due process before the law. Democracy without human rights and freedoms is an empty process without power or purpose.

  • “I’m shocked, shocked to find out that elections in Cuba are not free!”

    Cluaude Rains, as Capt Renault, said something very similar in Casablanca. “I’m Shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in this establishment” and is immediately approached by the croupier and handed a wad of bills saying, “Your winnings sir” ….LOL

  • A clear answer: no.
    Cuba should have free and fair elections.

    The best criticism of the Cuban “elections” I saw from a UN rapporteur and ex Swedish diplomatr:
    “the electoral process is so tightly controlled that the final phase, the voting itself, could be dispensed with without the final result being substantially affected”
    See: E/CN.4/1998/69
    Report on the situation of human rights in Cuba submitted by the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Carl-Johan Groth, in accordance with Commission resolution 1997/62

    Note: he was chargé d´affaires of the Swedish embassy in Havana from 1969-1972.

  • Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. (Frederick Douglass) The Castros have no intention of implementing ANY political reforms which could lead to democratization and their subsequent loss of power.

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