2015 Partial Elections: an Old Woman Wearing Rouge / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Billboard for the 2008 parliamentary elections. "Cuba in elections: without masters, without impositions"
Billboard for the 2008 parliamentary elections.
“Cuba in elections: without masters, without impositions”

14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 19 January 2015 – Next spring, Cuba will hold the first election process after the announcement of the restoration of relations with the imperialist enemy. Everything indicates that the authorities of the Island are ready to stand the test of what the democratic makeup should look like to create an impression of positive change. For this reason, they are rushing to create their own mechanisms for “approval” with the democratic systems in the region.

If the US President wants to see democratic change in Cuba, the regime’s double-dealers are working on it. After all, the old adage has already stated it: “It is not enough to be Caesar’s wife; it is a must, in addition, to appear so.” Though we Cubans are aware that the innovations brought about by the hand of the same government that curtailed civil liberties are only imitations of those dilapidated and unkempt old buildings in order to prolong their existence, and that, in the popular jargon we refer to as “an old woman wearing rouge.”

Last January 5th, the official Cuban press published a call of the State Council to the midterm elections, “as established in the Constitution of the Republic and Law #72 of October 29, 1992” in which delegates to the municipal assemblies of the People’s Power will be “chosen” for a “mandate” of two and a half years, subject to revocation.

The next day, the 17 members of the National Electoral Commission took up their positions and received appropriate accreditation. They must “organize, manage and validate the electoral acts”.

Granma newspaper reported the start of a “political and strengthening process on the 55th Anniversary of the CDR [Committees for the Defense of the Revolution]”, at the municipal level, as part of which  “assemblies at the popular board level” were held on January 8th, and on the 12th, they were held “at all zones of the CDR’s.” Such assembly process sought to “improve the functioning of the leadership structures of the CDR” from the grassroots level –on each city-block up to the municipal and zone-specific committees, and at the same time the “conditions of individuals who occupy charges at different levels of management” were evaluated. According to the national CDR coordinator, Carlos Rafael Miranda Martínez, this process ensured, among other objectives, “to help support the election process and the incorporation of young people.”

Election campaigns and political parties are expressly prohibited, but the PCC really runs the election process de facto

The first round of the process will take place on April 19th, 2015, the second round, “at those constituencies where none of the candidates have obtained more than 50% of the valid votes cast,” on the 26th.

The current Electoral Law in Cuba states that any citizen can be nominated as a candidate for delegate by a show of hands in the assemblies of each constituency, and subject to popular vote at the polls to exercise that capacity. Election campaigns and political parties are expressly forbidden, so it’s not a requirement that delegates and deputies belong to the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), but the PCC really runs the election process, plus governs the country de facto. Therefore, all levels of government of the popular power are subordinate to the PCC. In fact, party militancy is often a relevant qualification when proposing a candidate for delegate.

In the succinct proposal process, selection of the candidates and voting for the delegates of the electoral districts, all “democratic possibilities” are exhausted. Cubans are deprived of their legal capacity to choose, not just a President to rule the country for a reasonable defined period, but they won’t be able to opt directly for governor of their municipal district, city, or the province where they reside.

The “delegate” thus embodies the living exponent of the beginning and the end of the (popular) citizen power in Cuba. In this way, from the actual implementation of the first revolutionary electoral system, established in 1976, Cubans have strictly voted for a district representative – barely a portion of a neighborhood – whose function is mainly centered on receiving complaints from his constituents and passing down to them the decisions or guidelines emanating from the Municipal Assembly. That’s where the functions and powers of electors and elected at the grassroots level cease.

A possible ban on using the Little Pioneers as agitators often sent by the presidents of polling stations to citizens’ homes to go to the polls

A few days after the decree for partial elections in April 2015, seminars have begun to be taught in the capital to those called “trios” – composed of three individuals, members of the Communist Party, subject to the municipal committee of the PCC – who are responsible for driving and controlling the grassroots electoral process.

At these seminars, the trios are being instructed in the new guidelines that will begin to be applied to Cuban elections, whose main component is the addition of two new figures: the observer and the supervisor. This information has not been published in the official media. Also not published to the seminar attendees is what organizations will be in charge of watching and supervising the elections in order to validate their transparency.

At this point we could only speculate that the Cuban government requested the presence of observers from allied organisms as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) or the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), since Cuba is not a member of the Organization of American States, an institution that has its own mechanisms for such effects. This will allow the Cuban government to evade the direct supervision of those entities more discerning in matters of democracy.

Another detail of these elections will possibly be banning the use of the Little Pioneers (i.e. children) as agitators, who are often sent by the presidents of the polling station to citizens’ homes to get them out to the polls, a practice guided by the directorate of the municipalities of the PCC to each electoral table, which has been in effect since the establishment of the system.

“In these elections, voters will not be able to be pressured to go to the polls so that election stations may close early,” an instructor of a seminar directed a large group of trios at the Centro-Habana municipality. He also made implicit reference to the coercion that has been exerted on the electorate – who sometimes vote as to “not stand out,” so their own will not be harmed, or with lesser knowledgeable sectors who might believe that voting is a mandatory exercise – when he stated that a voter may show up when he decides to do so, and that they should not be pressured into being forced to come out and vote. If 10 show up, then it will end up being 10. Whatever. Nobody is required to vote.”

Translated by Norma Whiting