14ymedio, Havana, 25 July 2017 — The former Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Havana and current chair of the National Assembly’s Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Jose Luis Toledo Santander, is clear: there are similarities between the Cuban and Spanish electoral systems, although the island is free of those campaigns with “people covered with stickers, photos and the offensive battles that arise in other countries.”
“We are not sui generis. How does Spain elect the head of government? The parliament elects him, the president of the Spanish government is not elected by popular vote,” argues the deputy on being asked about the reason Cubans do not elect their leader. The official doesn’t mention in his comparison that the Spanish electoral system is a multi-party one.
The official argues that the deputies of Cuba’s National Assembly receive the sovereign power on behalf of their voters for the decision making, and one decision is the election of the president of the Councils of State and of Ministers. “In addition, our system is not a presidential system, it is a semi-parliamentary system. Our president does not have the power to make decisions alone.”
“Our system is not a presidential system, it is a semi-parliamentary system. Our president does not have the authority to make decisions alone”
Toledo, who has granted an interview on the electoral system published in three installments on the official website Razones para Cuba, notes that the president of Cuba goes through five phases until he takes office. “First he has to be nominated and approved by the votes of a full social or mass organization. Second, he has to be approved by a vote in a Municipal Assembly. Third, he has to be elected by direct and secret vote of the voters of an electoral district; if he does not get elected there he can not be a deputy. Fourth, his candidacy has to be approved by the National Assembly. And fifth, he has to be approved in a direct and secret vote by the deputies.” The professor does not explain, however, why only two people – both of the same family – have held the position in the last 40 years.
Toledo also refers to the particularity of the upcoming general elections of 2018 due to the absence of Raúl Castro, although he considers that the “wisdom” of the Revolution and the General have prepared the ground for the process to occur naturally. “It will not be a traumatic moment because we are all ready, there is an ideological political conditioning of the revolutionary force for a historic moment that this country is going to experience, and we are ready for change,” he says.
In the interview, Toledo again talks about the drafting of a future electoral law. The new law was planned for this term, but Castro’s promise has not been met. However, the official warned that changes in the composition of the elections and the presence of a permanent, professional body, dedicated to directing the electoral processes against the eventual one that now exists, will be studied.
The professor defends the scarce information available to Cubans when it comes to electing their representatives and denounces the electoral campaigns that exist in multi-party systems. “You can not confuse electoral propaganda with an election campaign. As part of the propaganda, there are tours organized by the Electoral Commission for the different territories and the candidates talk to the people, that’s one thing. A campaign is something else altogether where people cover themselves with stickers, photos, and there are the offensive battles that are provoked in other countries.”
The deputy considers that there is equal opportunities for all Cuban citizens when it comes to running, although he does not explain the difficulty of candidates emerging from outside the Communist Party
In addition, the deputy believes that there are equal opportunities for all Cuban citizens when it comes to running, although he does not explain the difficulty of candidates emerging from outside the Communist Party. “Every citizen has the right to elect and to be elected,” he said. Of course, within the limitations of the single party, which “expresses the democratic unity of the Cuban people,” according to a tweet from the Cuban Foreign Ministry which Toledo quoted on December 10, 2013, World Human Rights Day.
As for territorial representation, Toledo rejects that the deputies are tied to their region. “The deputy is a national representative, and the National Assembly discusses and approves the great problems of general interest of the nation, not territorial problems (…) which are channeled and resolved at the level of the municipality and province. What we do have to work on is that there need to be more links and exchanges between deputies and voters in the precinct, district and municipality. Today we have a program for that that has been approved by the Party leadership, which is called Perfecting the Organs of People’s Power.”