Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The 2013 Cuban Elections and the Multi-Party System

The 2013 Cuban Elections and the Multi-Party System / Dimas Castellanos
Posted on March 25, 2013

According to the official results of the "elections" held on Sunday,
February 3 of this year, 1,249,832 Cubans, "14.22% of all voters," did
not go to the polls or cast invalid ballots in a clear display of their
rejection of the Cuban electoral system.

The number of people behaving in this way has been growing over the last
few elections. In 2003 the total of these two categories (non-voters and
those who cast invalid ballots) was 506,453, or 6.09% of the electorate.
In 2008 it was 657,119, or 7.73%. In the most recent elections, however,
it rose to 1,249,832 Cubans, or 14.22% of the electorate, almost double
the number from the previous balloting.

The most notable thing about this jump was the number of people who
decided not to vote. In 2003 193,306 people abstained, 2.35% of the
voters. In 2008 the figures were 264,212, or 3.11%. In 2013 the number
rose to 790,551, 9.21%, nearly three times as many as in 2008.

To not vote "in a society without civil or political rights, under
almost total state control and with only one constitutionally recognized
party" is the most daring option.

In Cuba, where the only option is to approve the candidates chosen by
the Candidacy Commissions — committees made up of leaders of mass
organizations, whose own statutes declare them to be subordinate to the
Communist Party — not voting is proof that the Government has lost the
popular consensus. The results, therefore carry a clear lesson and are a
message that the Cuban authorities should take to heart. To ignore this
would lead to an inability to govern.

The reason behind the results is that it is really the Candidacy
Commissions which choose the deputies who make up the National Assembly
of the People's Power. These deputies then choose the Council of State
and its president as well as the president of the Council of Ministers.
The latter then chooses the members of the Council of Ministers itself.
As a result the National Assembly and the government are really
determined by the powerful Candidacy Commissions. This explains why many
Cubans decide not to vote to such a degree that abstentions now account
now nearly 15% of the Cuban electorate. This is three times the number
of members in the Communist Party. It also shows that the so-called
elections in Cuba have little bearing on the difficult living conditions
of the thousands and thousands of Cubans who live outside the law or who
choose to leave the country.

Faced with a profound structural crisis like the one threatening Cuba,
the election results are confirmation that is impossible to limit change
to certain aspects of society. Therefore, in spite of the government's
persistence in ignoring the subject of a multi-party system, reality has
succeeded in bringing it to the forefront. The election figures confirm
the existence of a non-conformist segment of society that is demanding a
political role. It is made up of Cubans who lack the right of free
association and the right to participate in deciding the fate of the
nation. How is it possible to justify the existence of a single party
when almost 15% of voters do not respond to its call?

Social development does not exclude but rather implies a multi-party
system as the natural expression of a diversity of ideas and interests.
It is the mechanism by which citizens express themselves politically.
The nation is a community of people who are diverse but equal in
dignity. They are looking for a common good for which full economic,
civil, political and cultural rights and responsibilities are essential.
Therefore, the restitution of the right of association and the
depenalization of political differences are necessary for Cubans to be
able to play their corresponding active and decisive role in the changes
to come.

In The Social Contract Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote that the union of
persons to defend and protect their well-being emanates from a general
will that transforms the parties to the contract into a collective
political body. The exercise of this will confers power, which is
referred to as sovereignty, and the party exercising it is sovereign.
Based on this sovereign status, the people choose officials to carry out
the general will and temporarily invest them with a mandate to propose
and effect laws, and to preserve citizens' liberties. In other words
elections are a manifestation of popular sovereignty.

The violation of the constitutional order in Cuba, which occurred in
1952, gave rise to an insurrectional movement which overthrew the
dictatorship in 1959. On January 8 of that month the leader of the
revolutionary movement swore that he would hold elections in the
shortest period of time possible and restore the constitution of 1940.
However, several days later and without popular consultation, the
nation's Magna Carta was replaced with the Basic Law of the Republic of
Cuba. By virtue of this Law, which was in force until the adoption of
the constitution of 1976, the Council of Ministers assumed all
legislative power and constitutionally affirmed one-party rule. From
then until today "elections" have been carried out under this policy of
exclusion in which the people cannot directly elect the president of the
republic. This amounts to a clear rejection of our historic legacy.

The current system, which limits direct vote by the people to delegates
for municipal assemblies, is one of the main causes for the indifference
of those who do not take part or who cast invalid ballots. It is an
efficient system for holding on to power, but useless for advancing the
changes that society demands. All these issues emphasize the need to
introduce a multi-party system and to carry out the corresponding
changes to the constitution.

Published in DiariodeCuba.com

8 March 2013


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