Voter participation down in Cuban legislative elections

Havana, Mar 26 (EFE).- Voter participation in Cuba’s legislative elections on Sunday stood at 60.14 percent as of 2 pm, the National Electoral Council (CEN) reported.

This is 7.91 percent below the participation rate at the same time of day during the 2018 parliamentary elections, which formulated the legislature that elected current Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

However, the turnout is higher than that reported early in the afternoon during last November’s municipal elections (53.79 percent) and during the referendum on the Family Law last September (58.82 percent).

So far on Sunday, no significant incidents that have affected the electoral process have been reported, CEN vice president Tomas Amaram said at a press conference.

More than 8.1 million Cubans are eligible to vote on Sunday, including 13,000 16-year-olds, who are able to cast ballots for the first time at one of the 23,648 polling places set up in 12,427 precincts between 7 am and 6 pm.

The elections are a key step in renewing the country’s institutions, a process that began with the local elections last November.

The electoral process will end when the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP), in one of its first decisions, appoints the country’s president, although Diaz-Canel – the head of the Cuban Communist Party, the country’s only legal political grouping – is expected to be tapped to serve for another term.

A total of 470 candidates are running for an equal number of seats in Cuba’s unicameral legislature and voters may either vote “yes” or “no” for them. Among those running for seats in the ANPP are revolutionary figures such as 91-year-old former President Raul Castro, assorted government ministers, top PCC officials, bureaucrats, musicians, scientists, intellectuals and the heads of state-run companies.

No opposition candidates are running in any of the races.

Only candidates receiving more than 50 percent of the valid “yes” votes cast for them may occupy the seat for which they are running. In the last parliamentary elections, every candidate surpassed that threshold but there are assorted legal provisions for filling the posts, should any remain vacant after the balloting.

The candidates were selected by the so-called PCC-affiliated mass organizations and approved by municipal assemblies of people’s power, where PCC militants are in the overwhelming majority. Formally, neither the parties nor their youth wings nominate the candidates.

Almost all the candidates in these elections belong to the PCC or the party’s youth elements, and in the current ANPP 96.5 percent of the lawmakers belong to or are affiliated with the PCC, according to the Web page of the Cuban legislature.

The Cuban government, the PCC and the state institutions and media in recent weeks have urged the public to vote in a bloc for all the candidates proposed for each district.

The opposition on the communist island and abroad, however, has been urging people to abstain from voting as a sign of their rejection of the electoral process and the Cuban political system in general.

After abstention levels regularly below 10 percent between 1976 and 2013, the rate increased to 14 percent in the 2018 legislative balloting, the latest comparable elections held on the island.

On the two most recent times that Cubans have been called to the polls – for the Family Law referendum in September and the municipal elections in November – voter abstention was tabulated at 26 percent and 31 percent, respectively, the latter setting an historic record.

According to experts, increased abstention could mean that the government is having problems of legitimacy because, in contrast to other political systems, the Cuban system is based on the group, on participation and on unity.

EFE jpm-jce/cpy/bp

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