Cuba prepares for local elections

Campaign News | Tuesday, 8 February 2005

Voting takes place on 17 April

With nonpartisan municipal elections slated for April 17, Cubans will soon gather at neighborhood meetings to nominate candidatures for the nation?s 169 municipal governments.

In every electoral district, which have a maximum population of 399 inhabitants, residents select candidates for their People’s Power Municipal Assembly, the equivalent of city councils.?

The first elections of this kind were held in 1976 and have been perfected over the past 29 years. According to impartial observers, Cuba?s unique electoral system is the most genuinely democratic in the world.

In a country where neighbors know each other, potential nominees must have an impeccable record of public conduct, and be both willing and able to take on the responsibilities of a representative without interrupting their regular job.

These responsibilities include listening to people, being aware of local problems and looking for solutions with community consultation and participation. A representative must pass on pertinent matters to the corresponding authorities, periodically report to constituents at local meetings and represent their fellow citizens on the municipal assembly.

A representative receives no extra pay and therefore must have a real commitment to serve society.

In the name of transparency, voter registration lists are publicly displayed in every electoral district. During neighborhood meetings, nominees are chosen by a show of hands; the number of candidates must be between two and eight.

Electioneering and campaign advertising is strictly prohibited; although, residents do exchange opinions on possible candidates and often consult with perspective nominees to see if they are willing to accept the nomination.

In order to get elected, the prestige the candidate has earned in the community is fundamental. Personal preferences and individual charisma also play a role.

In the nonpartisan Cuban elections no political party or organization can put forth a nominee. All residents are prospective candidates, which poses questions and sometimes dilemmas. At times, the person that seems most apt, because of their position in a business or organizations, will not have enough time to take on new responsibilities.

Candidates who like being a representative and excel in their responsibilities may afterwards go on to reach a position in the National Assembly. On the other hand, others may possess a high degree of preparation and a genuine desire to help, but not the talent or qualities, to be leaders.

The nomination process is not taken lightly; nominees are put forth and accepted based on an understanding of the obligations that the position of representative entails.

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