Voting and a Direct Democracy, an Idea for Cuba

By Repatriado

Government and TICs. Illustration:

HAVANA TIMES — If you ask me who I want to vote, my answer would be everyone: the more, the better. We should all definitely have this power, but this reminds me of what the popular Spider-Man says, “with great power comes great responsibility” and voting, well my idea of voting, is a great power so it would be a good idea if everyone did so responsibly.

Universal suffrage is an amazing achievement which many people fought to make a widespread practice when the selfish elite wanted to limit it by excluding large groups because of their gender, race, financial status or social origin, which have all been stigmas that one part of society has used against another. In order to overcome such injustice, people fought for universal suffrage and they were successful in many places.

With today’s global economy showing signs of dangerous exhaustion, we are reaching a breaking point; at the beginning of modern-day capitalism, this was resolved with revolutions, whether it was the British revolution, the French Revolution, the Netherlands or Belgium gaining their independence.

The inequity of this system today exceeds financial crises and corrupts the very pillars of democracy. Luckily, the capitalist system and its dizzying technological advances have allowed us to do something that was conceived for populations that were only 50,000 in size, thereby preventing bloody revolutions and establishing a direct democracy, which is now accessible to millions of humans using ICTs (Information and Communications Technology).

In this scenario, directly excluding social sectors wouldn’t be the biggest danger to the voting process, but rather the demagogic manipulation of charismatic leaders who use the system to get a boost to power and then subvert the system from there.

It could be useful to change our conception in this regard, that’s to say, while the right to vote should be universal, access to exercising this right should be mediated.

It’s not a big change, access to voting is already mediated by age, residence, legal status… In a direct democracy, people’s level of knowledge and interest should also be measured.

Something like this would be perfectly acceptable in a country with widespread, basic education. It wouldn’t be a limiting factor, but a condition. All you would need to do is take an interest and dedicate some time. I believe this is not very much to ask at all to be able to use such an important power because if you aren’t interested and don’t want to dedicate any time to informing yourself, it’s better you don’t vote.

This system would work in a world where most people are virtual users and Estonia is the best example of this today.

Using this technology as a basis, every citizen, without distinction, would have the right to pass a knowledge exam which prepares them in a political sense, like the written exam when you want to learn how to drive.

Every citizen would have the right to prepare themselves politically-speaking and take part, no matter where they live; like everyone has the right to participate or not.

This preparation wouldn’t end with an election because it will be the people who pass laws, be it in a representative chamber or by citizen initiatives. Plus, they would form part of the largest and most dynamic parliament ever created and this will express citizens’ desires much more clearly as they won’t be mediated by representatives and, therefore, will be more real.

What I’m proposing might initially seem like a restriction on universal suffrage, but it isn’t. What I am proposing is fair because absolutely everyone has the right to politically prepare themselves to vote.

Direct Democracy has its dangers, but it’s the only true democracy that exists. This preparation process is a way to foresee one of these dangers: demagogies.

Empowering citizens via a Direct Democracy is the next step in our species’ political evolution. Today, the world has stopped being a global community and has become a large, interconnected network which allows us to replace current power systems and big decisions being made by a more or less representative elite, with a much wider base where general interests are really what take the forefront.

The greatest objection to what I propose is that this preparation process might benefit privileged classes more. I believe that these classes are already the most privileged in the current system we have where a representative and inbred elite make all the decisions. Widening the decision-making base to all the population via a direct democracy would help resolve this problem, but in order to present collective decisions to a parliament made up of every country’s inhabitants, we need training and preparation to be able to exercise this great power responsibly.

Wouldn’t a post-Castro era be a good time and place to try this out?

15 thoughts on “Voting and a Direct Democracy, an Idea for Cuba

  • Every adult citizen in Canada has the right to vote. Restrictions can be manipulated for political gain. Immigrants can apply for citizenship following three years of residence. Whether one likes Donald Trump or not, sixty three million Americans voted for him. A larger number voted for Hillary Clinton, but the strange US system of the ‘Electoral College’ nullified the majority.
    You claim repatriado that “democracy is young”. How young or how old depends upon which country one addresses. but irrespective of age, it is far preferable to Cuba, where ‘democracy’ is for the Castro communist regime a dirty word as it represents a threat to their totalitarian dictatorship. Cubans are denied choice.

  • The system I defend do not exclude anybody, on the contrary, it is, in theory, more inclusive and secure for everybody.

    Voting is an individual option, but it affects to all of us, it is an individual option with general consequences, like driving, smoking or any other action that is conceived as a right but is limited because they affect to many people aside the individual who is exercising the right.

    It is absolutely normal in democracy to limit that kind of rights, adjusting it to an equilibrium between the individual right and the common interest of being safe.

    Today the universal vote is conceived unrestricted because democracy is young and too short time ago we were using the voting rights as a leverage to maintain prerogatives on one part of the population, a race, a gender, a religion, an ideology and so.

    That situation is absolutely impossible to happened with a direct democracy where politicians are infinitely less powerful than now, where their term to be in charge can be maybe 6 years, but without renovation and easily revocable, where political campaigns have a restriction to be financed and are organized by a public system that avoid all the actual theatre and show used to manipulate people´s emotions.

    Once everybody is convinced that his right to vote is secure, as it is secure his right to have a driving license, nobody will feel discrimination, like nobody thinks is being discriminated for not having a driving license.

    Education of course needs to participate actively on this, schools should educate in many things that they don’t, it is more important to know the basis of the scientific method that to know advanced mats, it is more important to teach tolerance, diversity, the fundaments of economy than Shakespeare, it is more important to teach the scientific tools to be a good parent than to teach history.

    All persons can read history, Shakespeare or learn advance mats by them self, but the school should be focused on create humanist citizens with democratic values.

    With a good education and our actual technology it is possible to improve democracy and avoid the majority of the problems of the insidious representative system, but the cost must be more responsibility, and I as a citizen have the right to be as sure as possible that the rest of my fellow citizens cares about politics and are active beings seeking for information using the reason more than the emotion, using a scientific method of thinking more than a theological one based in deep and untouchable convictions.

    I hope that having a direct democracy with a restricted voting right it is hard to believe that someone like Trump could be elected and even more difficult to believe that he remains in the charge too long. It is hard to believe that someone like Bush could deregulate financial system in our noses creating the big speculation and fraud that lead to so many suffering all around the world or allow to an Union to intimidate people with violent strikes.

    I do not talk about Fidel, Chavez, Maduro or Ortega because they simply do not exist in a direct democracy with restricted voting right.

  • I don’t know Nick whether the Australians can follow the practice of Cubans. Cubans are not compelled to vote, but knowing that record is maintained of who attends to vote (and the ensuing possibility of actions detrimental to their interests if failing to do so) many attend but rather than choosing between the candidates all of whom are members of the PCC, leave their voting slips blank. They are then recorded as having voted. So I guess that the Aussies could copy that Cuban habit.
    I note that you refer to “people’s civic right not to vote”, but if it is law that they do so, it would no longer be a civic right.
    My own belief is that having a vote in a multi-party democracy is a privilege – one not enjoyed in Cuba.

  • I am curious about ‘compulsory’ voting systems such as I believe they have in Belgium, Brazil, Australia and other places.
    My initial instinct is that it is an infringement on people’s civic right not to vote if they do not wish to.
    What do you think Mr MacD?

  • What do you think of the Australian system of persuading folks to vote NIck?

  • I was interested Dani in your opinion that politics and economics ought to be taught in schools. In Cuba the very basis of education given in the Constitution (Article 39) is the installation of communism in the minds of students and any endeavor by parents to instill any idea of alternatives is punishable be three years imprisonment. So I guess that Cuba can properly claim to be teaching politics in the schools.
    Economics however is an entirely different matter. My wife who as I have previously written here holds a fairly responsible position in education , told me quite a lot of years ago that she and her fellow Cubans knew little or in her case, nothing about economics.
    You may recall Raul Castro Ruz appointing Marino Murillo to be the tsar of Cuba’s economy back in 2015. Murillo you may recall produced a plan and then lectured the National Assembly for a couple of hours upon its merits. Such communist plans are inevitably grandiose illusions – a symptom of the tertiary stage of a rather unsavory medical condition – and Murillo’s one was no exception. Although seldom mentioned now, Murillo is still a member of the inner circle and appears to have blossomed – or maybe his US resident daughter sends him food parcels.
    As I wrote recently, Barack Obama gave good economic guidance in his speech at the Alicia Alonso Theatre on March 21st, 2016:
    “The economy of a country depends not so much upon what it consumes, but what it produces.”
    Such sage advice fell upon deaf ears.
    You speak of appointing others to vote for you. That is reminiscent of the US Electoral College. You further speak of voting for “something ridiculous”, which is offered at intervals to all Cubans, but which the US Electoral College also managed to achieve last time it met.

  • Some capitalist countries manage to continue to get away with making devastating levels of inequality even worse by means of the lazy excuse of being ‘a democracy’.
    As if being a ‘democracy’ is something you either ‘are’ or ‘aren’t’. How can a vastly unequal country be described as a democracy when the minority who profit from it own 90% of the means of news and information?
    Voter turnout is often low as people go about their lives convinced that they have no real power to influence any change. In the UK there is the expression ‘if voting changed anything, they would make it illegal’.
    This new guy has won in Mexico with what is described as a massive victory (he got over 50% of the vote). But only 63% of people voted. How can achieving the approval of one third of the electorate be described as a massive victory?

    Therefore Repatriado, it is good to aim high and your article is interesting. To aim for the best version of democracy possible is a great and ambitious idea. But devising a system whereby some are excluded due to being judged unworthy would come with it’s own problems. Prohibiting someone from voting because you might not like what they vote for?
    It would be a form of democracy which would be instantly open to accusations of being non democratic.

    The legendary (but seriously flawed) Winston Churchill said that democracy was imperfect but preferable to all other alternatives. He also said that the best argument against democracy was to spend 10 minutes in the company of the average voter.

  • You see Mr MacD….
    You do have a sense of humour !!
    Well played fella.

  • Carlyle did you received my email?

  • Thanks repatriado for a brilliant post and it is good to see that people are looking forward rather than nostalgia for a Batista past. Direct democracy is a good idea and I would welcome it. Your idea of passing an exam has some merit, but wouldn’t it be better to start with actually teaching children in schools subjects such as politics and economy, that for some reason are avoided like the plague. Unless people have the necessary education in these subjects it will always be a bit haphazard and based more on gut feeling and emotion.

    My concerns with DD would be the possibility that it could turn into government by activists. This would be good for the left who have many more supporters than the right who depend to a great extent on owning the media. However many ordinary people not that interested in politics might start not bothering to vote. Especially given the amount of often tedious legislation a normal parliament has to get through.

    One way that you could do things is to have a kind of hybrid system, if you want to vote on any issue you do so yourself – if you want a representative to do it for you nominate a representative. That representative would then be able to cast however many votes they have been assigned. At any point you could remove your vote and use it yourself or pass it on to another representative.

    Another issue is responsibility. What if people vote for something ridiculous, who is going to actually take responsibility for implementing it. We’ve got that exact problem with brexit. There would still need to be some kind of executive to carry out immediate decisions on economy etc.

  • I haven’t the slightest doubt Nick that you will get over what is obviously a brief moment of comprehension.

  • Thanks for the article Repatriado.
    It has actually resulted in Mr MacD making a comment and me concurring with every word of that comment.
    Wonders never cease.
    Perhaps one of these days Cuba will become food self sufficient as it should be.
    Who knows…….

  • Your final sentence Bob is absolutely correct.
    Tell me, is it correct that in some States of the Union, they prevent people from getting the right to vote by establishing various requirements that for the less fortunate still can be difficult to achieve?
    Incidentally, I still find it difficult to believe that 63 million Americans actually voted for Donald Trump(f), that Clinton actually got more votes but lost out. Strange system the Electoral College.

  • This is why I ask modification in voting rights at the same time that Direct Democracy, they must come together in order to avoid a group can use this preparation to cut some other group rights.

    It is also important to remark that this can be done only where all population have a basic education level.

    I don´t know that history, but I presume literacy test were used against an alliterated population, I would strongly oppose to such a thing.

  • Universal democracy is great.

    However, even the most basic requirements on who can and who cannot vote leads to problems. Those of us in the US remember the literacy tests used to suppress the vote of Negroes. That problem was not solved until passage of the 1985 Voting Rights Act by US congress.

    Voting rights are like freedom of speech, they must be truly without limits. As soon as you allow any criteria to be drawn, people will start pushing it.

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