14ymedio, Havana, October 10, 2019 — This Thursday continuity marked the Cuban electoral process to designate the highest positions of power on the Island. Unsurprisingly, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez was elected as President of the Republic in a vote that generated few hopes among citizens.
The Extraordinary Session of the National Assembly this October 10 coincided with the anniversary of the beginning of the wars of independence in 1868, and began with the vote for the head of Parliament, a Government body with more than 600 representatives and marked by the absence of political diversity.
Remaining at the head of Parliament is Esteban Lazo, a figure who analysts predicted would retire but whose permanence in the position reinforces the idea of continuity that has marked this electoral process. His candidature was ratified by 579 representatives of the 580 valid votes that were counted.
As vice president of the National Assembly, Ana María Mari Machado extends her mandate, and once again elected secretary was Homero Acosta Álvarez, who amply stood out during the drafting process of the new Cuban Constitution and who some had predicted would become the head of Parliament.
The designation of Miguel Díaz-Canel and Salvador Valdés Mesa as President and Vice President of the Republic, after their candidacies were approved by 579 and 569 votes respectively, was in line with previous predictions of observers. Both names were used in the voting pools in a country without public opinion polls.
In accordance with the limit of two terms of five years for high political and governmental positions, the time that has passed since last April 19, when the current president of the Republic took possession from his previous position as president of the Councils of State, will not be counted in this possible decade of mandate ahead.
The first to vote in the Council of State election was the ex-leader Raúl Castro Ruz, who continues to be a representative and remains at the head of the Communist Party, the political force at the helm of the nation according to Article Five of the recently ratified Constitution.
The new Council of State keeps 15 old members in their positions, adds 6, and leaves out 16. The majority of those excluded are because they hold ministerial level positions, some because of advanced age, and others because they were looking to reduce the number of members from 31 to 21.
After the exit of figures like Ramiro Valdés, 87, and Guillermo García Fría, 90, the last members of the so-called “historic generation” who remained in this ruling body, the average age of the Council of State lowers significantly. The Minister of the Armed Forces, Leopoldo Cintra Frías, 78, has also left.
Among the additions, one name that stands out is Eduardo Moisés Torres Cuevas, a 77-year-old historian, along with Yanci María Bravo O’Farrill, chief comptroller of Havana, José Ángel Fernández Castañeda, law student and president of the University Student Federation, and Alexis Lorente Jiménez, a doctor and president of the Municipal Assembly of Popular Power in Sancti Spiritus.
The new positions point at an attempt to distribute Executive power against the model that reigned for decades in Cuba with practically all authority concentrated in the figure of Fidel Castro.
According to the schedule announced by Díaz-Canel, the next step will be to designate a prime minister and make public the new composition of the Council of Ministers before the end of this year.
The almost nine million citizens with the right to vote in Cuba didn’t know the names included on the list drafted by the National Commission of Candidacies until after 11 in the morning on October 10. The parlamentarians themselves only found out about this list a little before placing their ballots in the ballot box.
The Assembly session this Thursday was not transmitted live on official television as had been announced, and Cubans could only follow its development via certain official digital sites that reported in writing what was happening in the Palace of Conventions. Around noon television showed a prerecorded recording with fragments of what happened.
Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera
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