Success and Failure of Independent Candidates in Cuba

A woman looks at the biographies of the candidates before voting in the municipal elections in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 20 December 2017 — Although from the legal and theoretical point of view the concept of “independent candidate” is inappropriate in the context of the current Cuban electoral processes, this designation has been imposed on those men and women who attempted to be nominated as candidates for the position of Delegate to the Municipal Assemblies in 2017 who did not enjoy the support or acceptance of the Communist Party of Cuba.

In democratic countries, where the multi-party system works and people with political inclinations present platforms to win over the electorate, an independent candidate is one who attempts to be elected without representing a partisan grouping and who competes for votes as an individual.

The current Electoral Law makes it clear that “the party does not nominate candidates” and that it is the Area Assemblies within the districts that propose and, by show of hands, nominate those who “possess sufficient merits.” In practice, however, it was not even possible to nominate a single one of those who were proposed from alternative initiatives.

The only time it has been possible to take a few steps in this direction was in April 2015 when, in two districts of Havana, Hildebrando Chaviano and Yuniel López managed to appear on the ballots. The corresponding electoral commissions in charge of writing their biographies – the only legal campaign materials – wrote that they were “counterrevolutionary elements.” Obviously, neither was elected at the polls.

In the recently concluded nomination process, it was expected that more than one hundred non-conforming candidates would be proposed at these Area Assemblies. The repertoire of obstacles interposed was vast and even imaginative.

There were arbitrary arrests of candidates and the presumptive voters willing to propose them, sudden modification of the dates of the assemblies and a last minute summoning of voters without informing the interested parties, changes in hospital shifts to admit close family members, and even unexpected offers to perform desired — but previously postponed — surgeries .

But above all, in each of the places where “the independent” managed to get someone to propose them or proposed themselves, a picket of indignant voters gave free rein to their revolutionary intolerance and, with the approval of those who directed the activity, they mocked with all kinds of insults those who had dared to make such a challenge.

It is no secret to anyone that, if one of these would-be candidates had been nominated, they most likely they would not have obtained the majority in the voting or, if that miracle happened, they would not have had any chance to be a candidate for the Provincial Assembly, let alone the Parliament. From all this comes an inevitable question: What is the point, then, of so much effort, so much risk?

The yardstick to measure the success or failure of these initiatives is not, as might be supposed, the number of seats won, but, even if it seems too metaphorical, the amount of unmasking that occurs in the discourse that the Cuban elections are trying to present as the most democratic in the world

Before an audience, made up of cadres from the PCC, and referring to the initiatives to promote independent candidates, the first vice president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, presumed replacement for Raúl Castro in February 2018, confessed the following: “Now we are taking all the steps to discredit that, so people have a perception of risk.”

With that statement, he violated Article 171 of the electoral legislation that states that “every elector, to determine which candidate he will cast his vote for, will consider only [the candidate’s] personal conditions, prestige and capacity to serve the people; every kind of electoral campaign (for or against) is prohibited.”

All the uniformed members of the National Revolutionary Police, the civilian agents of State Security and the hundreds, perhaps thousands of Party militants and cadres of mass organizations involved in these maneuvers, no longer have the right to say that they unaware of the trick. They may invoke obedience or the discipline required of them, but not innocence.

Those who designed these strategies ignored the fact that having just accepted (even manufactured) an elected opponent, they could have been more convincing about the supposed cleanliness of the process without the clumsy demonstration of arrogance and intolerance that they felt forced to unleash in order to prevent the nomination of people not committed to the Communist Party.

The closing down of peaceful methods only serves to open the doors to violence, if the most abject submission cannot be ascertained.


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