By Circles Robinson
Cuban officials often wonder out loud why their parliamentary elections are barely mentioned in the foreign press. I want to share some of the reasons why the process to elect provincial and national legislators draws so little interest on the island and virtually none abroad.
The top reason for the lackluster balloting is that no issues are discussed by the candidates, who are not allowed to campaign.
The candidates are only permitted to post resumes/synopses of their adult life. Voters are asked to cast their ballot for them because they were selected by nomination committees as the most qualified to support the central government’s policies and programs.
Voters have no idea if the candidate has any priorities or new strategies for dealing with the problems and concerns of the citizenry, whether they approve of all government policies 100 percent or if they have any criticisms.
Here’s the punch line: For 612 seats in the National Assembly of People’s Power there are 612 preselected candidates. For the different Provincial Assemblies of People Power there are a total of 1,269 candidates for 1,269 seats.
Then the National Assembly members will elect a Council of State including the president of the country and several vice presidents.
Voting itself is very easy. Registration is automatic for all citizens 16 or over and over 90 percent of the population routinely vote, which is voluntary, but many believe that those who don’t participate could face future reprisals.
Supporters of the Cuban electoral process often cite the abhorrent million-billion dollar US campaigns as the justification for going to the other extreme and not allowing any campaigning or fundraising in Cuba.
The concept of a paid politician is absent in Cuba and even the national parliament representatives derive no financial compensation for their civic work, which usually involves two brief three or four day sessions a year.
Since virtually all decisions are made as executive orders by the Council of Ministers, the parliament is relegated to rubber stamping decisions already made and sometimes already implemented.
Virtually all votes are unanimous and any debates among the members are held behind closed doors. Even an abstention is highly rare. This is to say 612 deputies routinely agree with every executive order passed by the Council of Ministers.
Seen as a strength by most of the Party leadership, this type of unity doesn’t wash with a growing segment of the Cuban population, especially its youth, who in turn are apathetic to the process – even if they vote so as to not attract attention.