In Cuba voters select candidates

Interview with President Ricardo Alarcón of the National Assembly of People’s Power

Outside of Cuba there is an idea that elections are relative insofar as there is only one Party. How is the Cuban electoral system organized and what are its values, speaking in terms of democracy?

In Cuba voters select candidates

We are now in an electoral process. This is one of the fundamental differences with the model in vogue, with its supposed paradigm. The essence of election system in the contemporary Western world implies that electors, who are not all citizens but rather a part, are called on to vote for certain candidates who have been selected by the electoral machine or political parties. Thus citizens have scant participation in the selection of candidates. In Cuba, a process has been underway for some weeks in which the people select by vote those persons they wish to present as candidates.

I believe that this is nothing like the predominant model in the rest of the world. Here, we could say that millions of Cubans have already voted, given these nomination assemblies or meetings to nominate candidates. On October 21, these same people are convened to go to the polls to elect from among the various candidates who they themselves nominated. The candidates are elected, not designated. They are not there as a result of an electoral machine.

On the basis of what characteristics or qualities are they chosen?

Obviously, there is propaganda in the newspapers or on television talks about supporting the best, the most capable. But the reality, for example, is that neighbors raise their hands in assemblies that take place in all the neighborhoods, and propose someone who they consider to be representative. Or, they might propose themselves, which can be the case and has happened before. If something abounds in Cuba, it’s elections. This stage culminates on October 21, and the second round, in those constituencies where no candidate has obtained more than 50% of the vote, on October 28.

In elections in the majority of countries, if a candidates reneges, voters can punish him or her by not voting in the next election. What alternatives do Cuban electors have in this case?

That’s simple: any of the people elected can have their mandate revoked at any time, by those who elected them. In recent years, I have been a [National Assembly] deputy for Plaza de la Revolución municipality. The first time that this happened, in 1993, I was invited, as were other deputies for the area, to take part in the municipal assembly, with the replacement of its president as the main point on the agenda. I sat down with the other participants and there was an intense discussion: some people were not in favor of removing the compañero and spoke wonders about his work. Others severely criticized him. Suddenly, a compañero got up, a man with many years of work in this district, and said, “Let’s leave the drama out of all this, here in Plaza, no president has ever completed a mandate. We’ve replaced all of them.” There is no timeline, no restrictions whatsoever on revoking positions. It can be done at any time, but obviously without this turning into chaos, with us voting every month.

In images disseminated abroad about Cuban elections, there is an attempt to ridicule them by using participation figures which are always high and in many cases, surpass 90%.

I have an explanation for that. When you go to vote in Cuba to elect from among a number of people, and you know that one of them was proposed in your nomination assembly, you know him or her, you feel they are closer to you, this gives you confidence. This is very different from elections in other countries where candidates cover walls with posters and their photos, smiling and promising everything. Secondly, if there’s something easy in Cuba, it’s voting. The polling centers are very close to where people live, one block away or two at the most. This means that many more people participate than in places where the polls are at a distance. The voting register is another thing. If you tour the island today, you will see voters’ lists, on the door of buildings, in grocery stores, in the stores, all subject to public scrutiny and popular control. I go and see if my name is there, and if it isn’t posted, I demand that it be added. But I also see that they’ve put you on it, and so I say to myself, this man is an Argentine and doesn’t live in Havana, and therefore cannot vote here. So when I go out to cast my vote I already know that that so many people identified at the entry by their first and last names are going to vote. Afterwards, at the time for the count, the commission in charge invites neighbors at the doorway of the center to help them count the votes. Let’s compare that with situations in which people don’t know how many people can vote where they vote, nor how many people voted, or even what the result is. (Extracted from Tiempo argentino)


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