Thursday, May 21, 2015

Elections In Cuba - The Dictatorship Lives On

Elections In Cuba: The Dictatorship Lives On

Over the past few weeks, the international press has been all eager to
inform the world that, for the first time in the history of Cuba (after
the Revolution), two candidates of the opposition, Hildebrando Chaviano
and Yuniel Lopez, stood as candidates in the election of delegates to
the Municipal Assemblies of People's Power held on April 19. Recent thaw
in relations with the United States has brought Cuba into spotlight and
potential changes in the island's governance toward a more democratic
model certainly seem very appealing to foreign governments and investors
from all over the world.

However, People in Need would like to draw attention to the Cuban
electoral system, which hasn't changed: it continues to be a hollow
mechanism whose sole purpose is to ensure continuity of the one-party
system. Despite the fact that every two years and a half there are
elections with new candidates, we mustn't forget that the elected
delegates are at the lowest level of the strongly hierarchical system of
government. As such, they are obliged to comply with the directives from
the upper echelons of power.

There's no denying that any citizen can propose a candidate for a
delegate to any of the Municipal Assemblies of People's Power in Cuba.
Elected delegates then choose the Presidents of People's Council and
these, in turn, elect the Chairman of the Municipal Administration, who
must be a member of the Communist Party of Cuba and whose decisions are
governed by the Municipal Secretary of the Communist Party. However,
none of the candidates elected to posts at any of the levels will be
able to defend any social or economic political program: they are all
supposed to work in concert to implement the directives approved by the
Communist Party, which is, in contrary to the principle of popular
sovereignty, the actual governing power in Cuba under Article 5 of the
Cuban Constitution.

On the other hand, it's clear that two opposition candidates (both
standing for election in Havana) in the mass of over 27,000 official
candidates for delegates cannot, by any means, be thought to represent
the Cuban society as a whole and its desires. Rather, they can be seen
as a minor concession – an attempt to try to improve the semblance of an
electoral system in which citizens' votes lack real value. In addition,
when the CVs of the candidates were published on April 1, 2015, those of
Chaviano and Lopez contained information that the two men were related
to "counter-revolutionary" groups. Although the Municipal Electoral
Commission had previously warned them that this word will appear in
their CVs, it wasn't able to explain what the term
"counter-revolutionary" meant.

Another interesting factor in the context of Cuban elections is that
citizens vote for CVs, not for political projects. They give their votes
to candidates judging on their merits, not on what they intend to do for
the community. Thus, the act of voting in Cuba is not an entitlement to
choose, but an obligation to participate in elections, which are a way
of keeping the system going. Cuban citizens have become used to the fact
that their vote has no real impact and that it cannot contribute to any
kind of change. Some of them have even lost their fear and refused to go
to the polls.

As far as the opposition is concerned, many of its members decline to
participate in the elections because they see them as a way of
legitimization of the regime. Then there are others, such as members of
the platform known as "Candidatos por el Cambio" ("Candidates for
Change"), which seeks to promote democracy from below – from the basic
structures of State administration. These, on the other hand, believe
that the 400 votes Chaviano and Lopez obtained are like 400 blows given
to Raul Castro's dictatorship, even though they didn't win in the end.
In any case, so far there haven't been any tangible results with regard
to the reform of the electoral law. We should bear in mind that if a new
electoral law is introduced one day, the change it will produce will be
totally inadequate because free elections are impossible without freedom
of expression, association and the press, which Cuba still lacks.
Citizens can never be able to freely vote in a country where members of
the Ladies in White movement continue to be assaulted every Sunday when
marching to the Mass, a country where the graffiti artist El Sexto
remains in jail for having tried to do an artistic performance, a
country listed by the Committee to Protect Journalists as the 10th most
censored state in the world.

Cuban Team / Equipo de Cuba
People in Need - Human Rights and Democracy | @PeopleCuba - rewriting Cuba,

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