Electoral Verses / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

A woman checks the list of candidates for the municipal elections. (14ymedio)
A woman checks the list of candidates for the municipal elections. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 23 October 2015 — Poet, teacher and literary critic Guillermo Rodriguez Rivera has published an interesting article about the Cuban electoral system in the blog Segunda Cita, managed by the singer Silvio Rodriguez.

Rodriguez Rivera insists that the need for reform of the Cuban electoral system is not unrelated to the rapprochement between the governments of Cuba and the United States, and he is right. The Electoral Act has been bad since its enactment in 1982 and should have been changed long ago. Not, as Rodriguez Rivera says, because transforming it is a necessity “that emanates from the process of updating our Socialist model.”

“Today, in truth, we Cubans are not electing 612 deputies as members of our National Assembly of People’s Power,” says the university professor, although it would have been better to acknowledge that we never have elected them. If there has never been an occasion in which one of those proposed has been rejected for not accumulating 50% of the votes, it is not because they are good or bad, but because the majority of the voters don’t really know who they are.

The poet recognizes that “it is the Candidate Commission that is really electing our deputies; we voters do not do anything but ratify them” — certainly a good point — but he does not have a clear proposal for how a mechanism will work to convert a citizen into a candidate. He limits himself to suggesting that “the other 50% will be personalities outside the provincial assemblies, but proposed and approved by them as candidates,” so that the task of selecting half of the list will be transferred from the Candidate Commission to the Provincial Assemblies. The current political approach, that shapes an absolute majority in the Provincial Assemblies, would be charged with perpetuating their hegemony by choosing those who, in their judgment, are politically correct.

Rodriguez Rivera points out that “the rejection of the old politics has motivated voters who are very disinformed with respect to the deputies they elect.” No Guillermo, it is not about a prejudice embedded in the 8 million voters in this country.

In the first place, “the old politics” is only understood in Cuba by those who are 88 or older, who experienced first hand the last Cuban elections, which occurred in 1948 (assuming the poet does not legitimate the Batista farces) and, on the other hand, the current Electoral Law in Article 171 establishes that “every voter is to consider, when determining which candidate to vote for, only their personal characteristics, their prestige and their capacity to serve the people.” Information that they must deduce from a photo and biographical data that is posted and that, by the way, is not even drafted by the candidate, but by the electoral commission of his or her district.

At the end of Article 171, in case it wasn’t clear, it was specified that, “Candidates can participate together in events, conferences and workplace visits and exchange opinions with the workers which allows, at the same time, for them to get to know the candidates personally, without this being considered a campaign of election propaganda.”

As there is always someone who does not fully understand the purposes of a Revolutionary Law, in Article 172, in its first paragraph, it is stated that it is a crime to violate the principles established in Article 171.

The new electoral law must return to the political profession virtues that have been snatched away. In a State of Law citizens must be able to express themselves freely without fear of reprisals, and must have the right to associate around their points of view.

The idea that the candidates come before the cameras to defend their proposals is not sufficient if this right of presenting political proposals is not extended to all points of view and under equal conditions: Liberals, Social Democrats, Christian Democrats, Environmentalists, Communists and others who appear in the rich Island fantasia. And not just one month before the elections, but during the entire year, and not exclusively in the provincial television studios but also in whatever media exists.

The Candidate Commission has to go, along with the prohibition on political campaigning. The voters must have the right to know how the deputy they elect is going to vote on their behalf.

The president of the Republic must be elected by a direct vote of the citizens and not in a parliamentary caucus.

Along with the Electoral Law, there must be a Law of Political Parties proclaimed, and above all there is a need to convene a plural and democratic Constituent Assembly to provide us with a modern Constitution, in accord with the demands of the 21st century. All this must be done because it is lacking, not because Fidel Castro has said that the ‘current model’ “doesn’t even work for us anymore,” a phrase which, moreover, has been ignored arguing that they had interpreted it to the letter.