Cuba’s Elections for Parliament Start With Low Attendance and Less Enthusiasm

In the bus station of the city of Camagüey, a polling station for travelers was established, but it looked empty this Sunday morning. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 March 2023 — The low attendance at the polling stations is marking Sunday in Cuba, where this March 26th the polls have opened early to ratify the 470 candidates who will occupy, for five years, the 470 seats in the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP).

Although more than 8.1 million people are eligible to  participate in the process, in many of the 23,648 polling stations the images of few lines were repeated this morning. Most of these were in the early hours but the numbers have diminished as the day progresses, according to reports compiled by 14ymedio.  

In several polling places in the municipalities of Centro Habana and Diez de Octubre, in the Cuban capital, at the stroke of nine in the morning, the volunteers who work at the polling stations and the children dressed as pioneers who traditionally guard the ballot boxes, were barely visible.

“Here the only ones I have seen go to vote are the organizers of the election and a neighbor who is an official of the Inder [National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation],” a young artist living in the Cayo Hueso neighborhood in Centro Habana told to this newspaper, having decided herself not to vote this Sunday.

An polling place in Havana opened its doors early to ratify the 470 candidates of the National Assembly of Popular Power. (14ymedio)

The travelers who arrived this morning at the bus station in the city of Camagüey also found a polling station located on the premises to provide facilities to voters who are far from their areas of residence. However, 14ymedio verified that very few of the passengers approached the table to obtain a ballot.

“I came to visit my family because now I was able to get a ticket from Havana and if I wasn’t going to vote in the place where I live, I’m not going to do it here,” claimed a retiree who was waiting at the station to buy a ticket back to the Cuban capital.

Nor, in the city of Sancti Spíritus, has enthusiasm to participate in a process in which parliamentary candidates need to receive the support of more than 50% of the valid votes cast to occupy their seat in the ANPP been perceived in the early hours of the day.

The only polling place where more than a dozen voters were seen waiting to vote is located on the Zaza Highway and its residents are mainly military. “In my neighborhood, even the elderly say that they are not going to vote because that doesn’t solve anything anyway,” says Yania, a young resident of the city’s historic center.

The low attendance that is perceived so far does not surprise anyone. The two previous occasions in which Cubans have participated in an electoral process have been in the referendum on the Family Code, last September, when the abstention was almost 26%, and in the municipal elections in November, in which it reached a historic high of 31%.

A polling place with few voters on Avenida Acosta in Havana’s Die de Octubre municipality. (14ymedio)

On this occasion, several opposition organizations and activists of various political colors called on people not to participate in the elections, with the hashtag #YoNoVoto. The abstention campaign was answered by the Cuban regime, which filled the official media with calls for a “united vote” to guarantee that the 470 candidates are elected.

Since early hours, the political police have prohibited several elections observers from leaving their homes, according to a complaint by Zelandia Pérez, coordinator of the Cuban Commission for Electoral Defense and a resident in Havana. State Security placed a police patrol outside Pérez’s house to prevent her from observing the electoral process.

Where long lines have not been lacking on this day is outside the bakeries, shops and other commercial premises dedicated to the sale of basic products. So far, Cubans seem more interested in getting something to put on their plates than in ratifying the parliamentarians of the next legislature in their seats.


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