Cubans go to the polls in municipal elections

News from Cuba | Monday, 22 October 2012

Cubans went to the polls at the weekend to vote in municipal elections, the beginning of the electoral process which will see the newly elected national assembly legislators vote for the Council of State and presidency in February 2013.

More than eight million Cubans voted in the process which began in September, when the population met in public spaces for neighbourhood assemblies to choose the candidates for the municipal elections. 32,000 candidates were nominated, with each electoral district requiring between two and eight names on the ballot.

Rather than party electoral campaigning, sheets of paper with biographies and photos of the candidates are then taped around each neighborhood for residents to read.

Although the 29,500 voting booths opened at 7am on Sunday morning and were scheduled to close at 6pm on Sunday, voting stations stay open for as long as there are citizens waiting in line to exercise their right to vote.

A second round of elections is scheduled for October 28 in constituencies where none of the candidates gets more 50 percent of the valid votes.

Once the elections close, electoral authorities will carry out a public vote count and release the results.

The municipal assemblies administer local government and relay complaints on issues such as potholes and housing, social and sports programs. After the local elections, assembly members and commissions elected by workers, farmers, youth, student and women's groups then choose candidates for the national legislature, which eventually elects Cuba's next president.

The entire process is devoid of party slogans, ads or logos, since only one party is legal in Cuba: the Communist Party, and its job is to "guide" society and its politics rather than impose candidates, said Ruben Perez, secretary of the National Electoral Commission.

"Voting is free, not obligatory and secret," he said. "Our system is totally transparent and we defend it like this. We think that it is very democratic.

"It is a different concept: no delegate represents any political interest, only society itself."

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