Cuba says nearly 97 per cent voted in local elections

Campaign News | Tuesday, 19 April 2005

8.2 million affirm their support for system

HAVANA April 18: Cuban officials on Monday said that nearly 97 percent of registered voters in the country participated in municipal elections over the weekend.

Justice Minister Roberto Diaz Sotolongo, who presides over the National Electoral Commission, said nearly 8.2 million Cubans, or 96.66 percent of those registered, went to the polls Sunday to elect 169 municipal assemblies across the island of 11 million.

"I don't think any other country has such a high voter turnout," Cuban President Fidel Castro said in a televised address after Diaz presented the results.

Cuba consistently defends its system as democratic, but critics of Castro's government argue that tight state control, a heavy police presence and neighborhood-watch groups that report on their neighbors prevent any real political freedom.

Though it is not obligatory to vote, pressure to participate is high. Municipal and national elections always have a high turnout.

The municipal elections, dubbed "the most democratic in the world" by Castro after he voted Sunday, take place every 2 1/2 years. The turnout in the last municipal elections was reported to be 95.75 percent.

Under Cuba's one-party system, municipal, provincial and national representatives are elected by citizens on a local level. Anyone can be nominated to these posts, including nonmembers of the island's ruling communist party - the only one recognized in Cuba's constitution.

The island's top leader, however, is not directly elected by citizens. Representatives of the National Assembly nominate, then elect the Cuban president.

Havana, April 17 (AIN) President Fidel Castro announced the conclusion of Election Day voting at 6pm Sunday after Cubans went to polls in massive numbers to elect delegates to the country’s 169 municipal governments.

At the beginning of his special televised address Sunday evening, the Cuban leader said that preliminary voting information would be available in the coming hours. He noted that as of 3pm, 92.09 percent of the 8.3 million registered voters had gone to the polls; a figure he said was similar to previous elections.

The large vote is seen on the island as a counterpunch to an official Bush administration document that advocates the overthrow of the Cuban government and the reinstatement of the system prior to the 1959 revolution. Back then, according to Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon, voting was a privilege instead of a right and gangsters allied to the US government decided who would be the candidates.

Fidel Castro initiated his words at the Havana Convention Center with the latest voting information before continuing his analysis and denunciation of the presence in the United States of the notorious international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles.

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