Havana, Cuba, March 21, 2016 — On February 23, 2015 the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) announced that its VII Congress would take place in April 2016 and that the National Assembly of People’s Power would be asked to amend the electoral process and adopt a new law to govern the general elections of 2018.
Cubalex conducted an investigation of the Cuban electoral system and held discussions involving representatives of independent civil society organizations to identify obstacles to full and equal citizen participation in the political process. We consulted experts in Latin American electoral issues to take advantage of this region’s broad experience over the last 30 years.
In search of political openness and a peaceful transition, we have formulated three key proposals to reform the electoral system by promoting comprehensive elections and eliminating restrictions on the right to elect and be elected in order to realize the constitutional precept that “Cuba is an independent and sovereign state, organized as a unitary and democratic republic for the enjoyment of political liberty.”
As an independent civil society organization, we are proposing three key reforms as instruments to encourage democratic change in our society. These include reestablishing the rule of law, democracy, political pluralism and respect for human rights — especially for those groups interested in participating in the process established by the PCC — by promoting “elections with integrity” based on democratic principles of universal suffrage and political equality.
1. Citizens would submit names of candidates for Municipal Delegate positions to direct public vote (by show of hands) at local nominating conventions. In circumstances in which a candidate is someone other than one nominated by the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), the final choice would be made by the citizenry.
2. The system established by the current electoral law prohibits political campaigning and restricts the right of citizens to formulate and demonstrate their political preferences and obtain information from a variety of sources.
These proposals by civil society organizations would guarantee citizens the right to organize themselves into movements, political parties or civil-political associations based on ideological and political preferences for the formulation of proposals on public policy, the promotion of political debate and the observation of electoral processes.
3. Currently, the National Electoral Commission, the supreme electoral body, only operates during election cycles and is appointed by the Council of State. Its temporary nature and designation as a political body rather than an organization made up of professionals threatens its independence and impartiality. Furthermore, the Office of Voter Registration operates under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior, a military institution, which discourages citizens from requesting information necessary to exercise their political rights.
Our reform project seeks to generate confidence and guarantee the political rights of citizens as well as electoral integrity and transparency by means of a decentralized and permanent election commission and by charging the Office of Voter Registration with guaranteeing the full independence and financial resources of both institutions and of the officials which constitute it.
We are also soliciting help from the international community because of refusals by our government to listen to us or discuss this issue. The Cuban government responds to every civil society proposal with greater repression, stigmatization and discrimination. We need help in opening channels of communication with authorities. We need mediation and dialogue. We need help in achieving what all Cubans clearly want: a peaceful transition to a democratic, pluralistic, just and inclusive government.
It is worth noting that on May 1, 2013 the Cuban government underwent the Periodic Universal Exam and in a constructive manner agreed and voluntarily promised to adopt measures to promote effective participation by non-governmental organizations and civil society institutions and to adopt legislation to promote human rights.
The Cubalex Legal Information Center — headquartered in Havana, Cuba — is a non-profit organization of attorneys and activists which defends human rights. Our mission is to promote and defend human rights in Cuba, establish the rule of law and democratize Cuban society.
We offer free legal advice in matters involving housing, immigration, inheritance, labor, criminal appeals, constitutional procedures and the defense of civil and political rights on a national and international level to Cuban or foreign citizens who request it.
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