No surprises expected in Cuban election Sunday
The turnout will be huge and the results highly predictable in Cuba's
municipal elections. No opposition candidates were allowed to run.
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
Municipal elections that the Cuban government trumpets as the most
democratic in the world will be held Sunday, as usual with a massive
turnout guaranteed but no campaigning or opposition candidates.
The numbers for the local elections, held every 2 ½ years, are certainly
More than 8.4 million Cubans aged 16 or older will be able to vote in
29,856 polling places for more than 15,000 candidates for seats on the
island's 169 municipal councils.
More than 200,000 men and women will run the voting, and results will be
sent to the National Electoral Commission by telephone or, in remote
locations, ham radio, horseback, bicycle and even carrier pigeons.
But no dissidents are among the candidates -- selected by neighbors in
Town Hall-styled meetings -- although 27 put their names forward around
the island, said Silvio Benitez, president of the Liberal Party, which
is not recognized by the government.
Most received only one or two votes, he said, but his bid in District 47
of the town of Punta Brava near Havana did surprisingly well: 14 for
Benitez, 50 for the official candidate and 50 abstentions.
``The government staged a comedy, so that not one independent voice
would be nominated,'' Benitez said by phone from Havana.
Sunday's elections are officially nonpartisan and anyone can be
nominated, though the vast majority of the candidates selected are
members of the Communist Party, enshrined in the constitution as the
country's ruling party. National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón
nevertheless said earlier this year that ``millions of people around the
world would want to have votes as free and democratic as Cuba's.''
Although voting is not legally mandatory, government supporters go
around neighborhoods every election day strongly urging everyone to cast
their ballots, and keeping track of those who don't.
``Not voting can have negative consequences in social and labor
circles,'' wrote Cuban blogger Laritza Diversent. Voting, she added, is
therefore little more than ``a mandatory electoral service that citizens
provide to guarantee the continuity of communist power.''
Turnout in the last municipal elections in 2007 was reported at 95
percent, compared to 97 percent in the previous balloting, a drop that
Cubans say reflects the belief that local officials do not have the
power to deal with problems like broken water mains and potholes.
The National Electoral Commission has highlighted that this year's crop
of nominees for candidacies is younger and has more women than such
groups in the past.
Of the 34,766 Cubans nominated this year, 75 percent were aged 16 to 50,
compared to the 53.9 percent of Cuba's 11.2 million people who are in
that age range, according to commission figures. The 12,431 female
nominees made up 35.7 percent of the total, well above their 28.9
percent in the 2007 balloting, the commission added.
No campaigning is permitted in the elections for municipal, provincial
or national posts, and the only publicity permitted are fliers with the
candidates' qualifications that are posted around the districts.
The 614-member national legislature, the National Assembly of People's
Power, is elected for five-year terms but the full legislature meets
only for a few days twice a year. In between, the Council of Ministers
manages state affairs.
The most recent elections to the National Assembly were held in 2008.