14ymedio, Reinaldo Escober, Havana, 20 June 2019 — The draft Electoral Law, published in the official media on Thursday, confirms the most adverse predictions about the official rejection of any political reform.
The text, which the deputies of the National Assembly of People’s Power will no doubt approve, maintains, with a new wording, the “ethical foundation” of the old law in affirming that the Electoral System “highlights the capacity, values, merits and prestige of the candidates as the only elements to take into account by the voters to cast their vote, to which end their biographies are publicized in public places well in advance of the day of the elections.”
To make it even more clear, the following subsection excludes “all types of individual electoral propaganda and any other action aimed at tipping the voters’ decision in favor or against a candidate.”
That a law dictates the “only elements” that voters can take into account to cast their vote is, in addition to humiliating, absurd because in the privacy of the ballot box each voter will take into account whatever he or she wants.
What they may not be aware of is the candidates’ opinions. That is going to occupy the Candidate Commissions, the other monster that the new Law inherits from the previous one.
Title VII deals with describing the composition and functions of these commissions, which are basically responsible for preparing and presenting the lists of candidacies for the municipal and provincial assemblies, as well as that of deputies to the National Assembly of People’s Power. These lists consist, in number, to the number of positions to be filled, so that there is no possibility to choose between one or another candidate, only to approve a candidate or not.
In the specific case of the National Commission, it also carries out the candidacy project to fill the positions of President and Vice President of the Republic, as well as the President, Vice President and Secretary of the National Assembly of People’s Power and the members of the Council of State. These positions, however, are voted only by the Members of Parliament.
The members of the all-powerful commission are representatives of the official institutions that exert political control in all sectors of society: the Workers’ Confederation of Cuba, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women, the National Association of Small Farmers, the University Student Federation and the Federation of Secondary Students. Its designation is a power of the respective national, provincial and municipal top leadership of these organizations.
As is known, the top leaders of these so-called mass organizations are part of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and some of them sit on the Politburo. The statutes of these entities all contain a condition that ensures anyone filling these positions is loyal to the Party and the Revolution.
Before preparing their respective proposals, these commissions are entitled to “consult the opinion of as many institutions, mass and social organizations and work centers as they deem pertinent,” which obviously includes the opinion of the organs of State Security.
With this neatly tied package it is naive to consider that the creation of a National Electoral Commission (CEN) as a permanent organ is a significant step forward, nor is the reduction in the number of deputies, which from now on will number 474 instead of the current 605.
Different opposition organizations have drafted proposals for a new electoral law that would allow for a multiparty system and competition among the candidates. None of those approaches has been taken into account.
The project that is now being debated consolidates the power monopoly of the Communist Party and gives continuity to ideological exclusion and discrimination for political reasons. If a reformer manages to sneak into the next Parliament or the new Council of State, he or she will necessarily have to be a skilled simulator.
Cubans residing abroad continue to be excluded from the electoral process, and, despite their prominence (via their remittances) in the family economy, will remain isolated from the possibility of electing local representatives and deputies to Parliament. Meanwhile active military, permitted to vote but not to run for office in many democratic nations, will continue to be candidates here.
Despite the “nicely tied package” represented by the electoral path in this new legislation, it is not armored against the corrosive acid of the opportunists: Those who wear masks for years, applaud, nod, show themselves as trustworthy beings for the party apparatus and, the moment they feel they do not risk their necks or their positions, change their position. And even those who, eager to maintain the system, promote reforms that end up breaking it.
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