Abstaining in Cuban Elections Means Disagreeing Politically

Campaign for not voting in the next Cuban elections. (Reynier Leyva Novo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, November 21, 2022 — Once again, abstention appears as an option to demonstrate political disagreement in Cuba. It already happened in 2019 when the Constitution of the Republic was put to the vote, 15.6% abstained, more recently in the referendum where the Family Code was approved, 25.88% abstained, and it now appears before the elections of the district delegates next Sunday, November 27, where abstention is estimated to exceed 30%. The time when Cubans went to Electoral Colleges to choose their delegates with apparent enthusiasm are long gone.

The numbers are boring and overwhelm the reader, but to understand what will happen on this occasion it is essential to review them.

The approximately eight and a half million registered voters in the country will decide, among 26,746 candidates, who will be the 12,427 district delegates that will make up the 168 Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power.

According to official data, among the candidates there are 18,621 who are affiliated with the Communist Party or the Union of Young Communists, and only 125 who don’t belong to these political organizations. Considering that dissenters with the Government are inclined not to go to the polls, it can be assumed that the militants will have an advantage to fill the positions.

No opponent, not even a declared dissatisfied person, managed or was interested in presenting as a possible candidate in any of the 44,929 area assemblies held and in which, by show of hands, the voters proposed the names of those who will appear on the ballots. A few recorded attempts ended in obstacles to prevent a person from leaving their house or other tricks to make it impossible for the “inconvenient” to participate in these area assemblies, traditionally convened by the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs), controlled by the Party and monitored by State Security.

The next time Cubans with the right to vote will be summoned to the polls will be in 2023, when the renewal of the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP) will happen. On that occasion the voters will not be in the situation of electing, but rather of approving, a list of people proposed for deputies that will be presented by the National Candidacy Commission. This list will have the same number of names as there are seats in Parliament.

It remains to be decided how many members the ANPP will have in 2023, but the Electoral Law establishes that at least half of them will come from the members of the Municipal Assemblies. If the current figure of more or less 600 deputies were maintained, the Candidacy Commission would have the opportunity to select about 300 of its preference among the 12,427 who are elected on Sunday.

To the extent that, as planned for 2023, the total number of parliamentarians is reduced, the presence of those who come from the base elected by the voters will also be reduced. The other half will come from government officials, military personnel, party cadres and some athlete, artist or scientist “committed to the process,” who will give the ANPP an appearance of plurality, alien to the diversity of ideological tendencies.

Not only will the political will to demonstrate nonconformity be a reason not to go to the polls, but also the indifference of citizens, who perceive the uselessness of the local bodies of so-called “people’s power,” will also have an enormous weight.

The frequent blackouts, growing inflation, shortages, the deterioration of health services, long lines to acquire basic necessities, and the loss of values overwhelm the vast majority of the population that sees its deputies raising their hands unanimously to approve everything proposed by the Government, but the decisions taken there don’t alleviate anguish or solve the problems.

Going to the polling stations is increasingly a formal act where citizens only worry about being seen, because staying at home marks them, betrays them. So fear is for many the only reason to simulate that they vote for candidates who will pretend to govern on behalf of the people.

The enthusiasm has been over for a while; now the fear is beginning to end.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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