Fernando Damaso, 29 July 2017 — The slogan adopted for the so-called 2017-2018 General Elections is “For Cuba.” According to propaganda claims, these elections are unique in the world in that, unlike in most countries, it is not political parties which nominate candidates but rather citizens at the grass roots level. In reality this is not the case.
The party, the only legally recognized party, does it by using official civil society organizations — the only such organizations which are legal — which operate under its direct control. Furthermore, if a “troublesome” candidate should happen to slip past the control mechanisms, the party — once again, working through these same organizations — will do everything in its power to make sure the individual is not nominated. In practice, a candidate has never been nominated who had not been previously approved by the party.
It is precisely at the grass roots where any real citizen participation begins and ends, where voters “choose” a candidate from those already chosen by the party. Only those nominees who have been previously “filtered” and approved will be on the ballot.
The governing body for municipal, provincial and the national elections is the so-called Candidates Commission, composed of representatives appointed by the municipal, provincial and national leaders of these same governmental organizations (the Cuban Central Workers’ Union, the Commitees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women, the National Assembly of People’s Power, the University Students’ Federation and the Pre-University Students’ Federation).
These organizations draw up lists of candidates for the provincial legislatures and the National Assembly without any citizen participation. As is widely known, everything is tightly managed to ensure that the absolute unanimity of voting that characterizes Cuban legislatures is maintained, from the grass roots to the National Assembly.
Since all representatives are required to be nominated and elected by the electoral base, those whose nominations and elections are considered crucial are assigned (or planted) to ensure that none of the party’s stalwarts get left out. This often involves a candidate being nominated based on his or her place of origin or other incidental considerations. As a result, someone may be nominated and formally elected in a place which he has not visited in years and to which he no longer has any ties.
By democatic norms, Cuba’s general elections are undoubtedly “quite original.” Perhaps that is why its “elected” leaders remain in power for decades. In spite of being terrible at governing, spending their terms in office veering from disaster to disaster, they win reelection every time.
Rather than being a democratic electoral process, the Cuban system amounts to a process of dynastic ratification and a way of recycling its buffoons.