Cuba goes to the polls in local elections

News from Cuba | Tuesday, 27 April 2010

8 million Cubans turn out to vote

Morning Star report by Tom Mellen

Cuban citizens turned out in force on Sunday to vote for local assemblies across the socialist country.

Shortly before the polling stations closed, around 8.1 million people had voted to elect local representatives to the country's 169 municipal assemblies of People's Power - a turnout of almost 93 per cent.

About 15,000 representatives on the local assemblies are elected every two-and-a-half years.

Candidates are not chosen by party officials and do not need to be members of the Communist Party.

They are nominated by a show of hands at gatherings of the community-level Committees for the Defence of the Revolution.

As in other countries, each voter places a check mark by the name of the candidate they want and balloting is secret.

While participation is not mandatory, it is strongly encouraged as a civic duty.

National Electoral Commission head Ruben Perez Rodriguez described the high turnout as "a yes for the motherland, for Cuba, for the revolution and for socialism.

"It is a yes for the political system that we have adopted, that we defend and love," Mr Rodriguez went on.

After casting his vote, Cuban parliament president Ricardo Alarcon noted that, unlike in capitalist countries, Cuban candidates are barred from campaigning and are nominated, not on the basis of how much money they can raise, but on their "merits and capabilities."

"This is an electoral process where truth rules - it is very different to those in many countries, where deception, votes purchasing and corruption are ever present on election times," Mr Alarcon declared.

As well as resolving grassroots issues such as problems with refuse collection or noisy neighbours, the local assemblies also elect those who will fill regional assemblies and the national parliament, which in turn decides who will serve on the Council of State, Cuba's cabinet.

Provincial and national parliament elections are held every five years.

Cubans aged 16 years or older can vote, and even younger schoolchildren are encouraged to play a role - each ballot box is guarded by two children from the Young Pioneer movement.

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