To Vote or Not to Vote / Yoani Sanchez

MEETING – Candidate Nomination… In the basement in front of the superintendent’s apartment. We expect you to attend ON TIME.

Cuba’s municipal elections for delegates to the People’s Power are now getting underway again. The official media repeatedly tells us that “this is the best democracy in the world,” and it’s time to nominate from among our “most capable.” The streets are filled with billboards referring to the topic and in every neighborhood voter lists are published. The atmosphere would be similar to that of any other country during the period of nominating local representatives, if not for one crucial details. There is no expectation that this process influences any national decisions. No possibility it will produce any change.

The electoral machinery is strictly controlled. The inhabitants of each area vote for a biography and a photo but have not right to ask the potential district delegate what he or she thinks about specific problems. That is, we put a ballot in a box but without knowing whether the candidate is for or against increasing self-employment, prefers to keep or eliminate emigration and travel restrictions, much less if they would like to end or lengthen Obligatory Military Service. The Electoral Act itself declares that there can be no political campaigns and this leaves the population with just some resumes and portraits from which we must pick one.

Thus, it gives rise to situations as absurd as marking the ballot next to a certain name because it has the face of a good person, or because they graduated as an engineer and this indicates they’re hardworking. People choose someone who has three children because being a father or mother must guarantee honesty, of they pick a representative for the simple fact of having run into him or her — now or then — at the market. The final result is that the neighborhood delegates who some day reach a seat in the National Assembly vote unanimously for all the laws presented to them. And never, never, do they dare to propose any change.

18 September 2012