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cuba election 2023

On 26 March, Cuba completed the final stage of its General Election. Even in the midst of intense hardships caused by US sanctions including hours-long queues for basic goods, 6,164,876 Cubans turned out to vote for or against deputies to the National Assembly of People’s Power at 23,468 voting stations, a turnout of 75.92%.

This exercise in mass democratic participation, in defiance of the illegal US blockade of Cuba which is intended to bring about unrest and the overthrow of the socialist state, demonstrates the strength of popular support for the Cuban revolution.

This was the first election since the introduction of a new constitution in 2019. It was this constitution that reinstated the position of the Prime Minister; Manuel Marrero Cruz was elected to this position in 2019 by the National Assembly and re-elected in 2023. This was also the first general election since the passing of the new Family Code in 2022.

The first step in the general election is the election of the Municipal Assemblies. These elections took place in November 2022, with a turnout of 68.56%. In each electoral district, between two and six people are nominated to stand for election. Candidates are not selected or put forward by any political party, nor can they nominate themselves; instead local meetings are held where people decide freely by a show of hands who, from among themselves, will be nominated, and can discuss the strengths and weaknesses of those candidates. Once nominated, brief biographies of the candidates are displayed in public places, and they have tours of different areas organised by the Electoral Commission so they can meet with voters. There are no big election campaigns or donations, as seen in other countries. It is also not necessary to be a member of the Communist Party of Cuba to be nominated or elected.

Once the delegates to the Municipal Assemblies were elected, they, along with representatives of the various mass organisations of Cuba – for example, the Federation of Cuban Women, the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, the University Students Federation, and the Federation of Secondary School Students – put forward candidates to be elected as deputies to the National Assembly and the 16 Provincial Assemblies. These candidates were assessed by a Candidature Commission, composed of members of the mass organisations, to determine their suitability for the positions. Once this process of nomination was concluded, the candidates were publicised to the Cuban people during the months of March and April, with brief biographies of the candidates regularly covered on Cuban national television, gradually presenting the candidates from the different municipalities across the nation. The elections were held by secret ballot, with everyone aged 16 or older eligible to vote.

Of the ballots cast, 90.28% were declared valid, with 6.22% left blank and 3.50% declared invalid. The ballot paper lists the names of at least two and up to six candidates that had been nominated by the elected delegates of a particular Municipal Assembly. The voters could mark a single X for all, or they could select candidates from the list. 72.10% of the valid ballots marked the X for all the candidates, with 27.9% picking individuals from the candidates.

The makeup of the new National Assembly is one of the most diverse in the world with 55% of the 470 deputies being women, making Cuba the country with the second highest percentage of women representatives, after Rwanda. 45% of the deputies are black or mixed race. Around 95% of those elected are college graduates, in a country where university education is free for all, and the average age of the deputies is 46 years, with 20% under 35 years of age. The occupation and background of those elected is also diverse as all municipalities are represented, and all sectors including production, education, health, science, students, religion, and owners of small-scale private enterprises. A prominent person elected to the National Assembly was Elian Gonzalez, who as a child was kidnapped by right-wing counterrevolutionaries in Miami for use as an anti-communist propaganda tool and was returned to Cuba after an international campaign (see FRFI 153).

The National Assembly of People’s Power is the highest authority in the nation. It elects the President of the Republic, and it confirms the cabinet of ministers presented by the elected President. It also enacts legislation and has the power to amend the Constitution. The deputies to the National Assembly and delegates to Municipal Assemblies are not professional politicians; they keep their regular employment, except when they have extensive work on legislative committees, in which case they take a leave of absence from their post. They do not earn additional income through their service as delegates and/or deputies. The new National Assembly also re-elected Miguel Díaz-Canel for his final term as President of the Republic. He was elected in 2021 by the Communist Party of Cuba as its First Secretary.

The recent elections show the political awareness of Cubans despite the ever tightening US blockade and an internal US-backed campaign encouraging Cubans not to vote. Cuba shows again how true democracy today can only be achieved under socialism.

Ellie O’Hara