By Pedro Campos, Havana Times, April 14, 2015
The municipal elections of Cuba’s People’s Power Assemblies will be held this coming April 19th. As in all previous elections, it is a question of choosing a representative that sits with their arms crossed, whose sole function is to give the process the semblance of legitimacy, to give credence to the claim that they were elected directly by the people in each of the different jurisdictions.
The electoral commission appointed in each of these jurisdictions is to ensure that the “suitable candidate” is advanced and elected, and it will be paying close attention to any move in support of a proposal that does not respond to “the interests of the revolution.” The candidates’ bios, demonstrating their “loyalty to the revolution,” will be the only information citizens will have at their disposal to choose the municipal assembly representatives.
In turn, these assemblies will elect their respective chairs from among the candidates advanced by the municipal commissions of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and their subordinate organizations.
Then, in 2017, we will hold elections to choose the provincial and national representatives, from among candidates who have been pre-selected by commissions run by the PCC and their “conveyor belts”, as Marxism-Leninism calls civil society organizations subordinate to and financed by the Party/government/State.
The Provincial and National Assembly representatives will be elected directly by citizens, that’s true. But people will vote for candidates who have been pre-selected by Cuba’s one party, at all levels. There will be no spaces left blank and there will be only one name on the ballet for each position. Once again, no one will know what plans these candidates have to solve the problems of their province or the nation – we will only be sure that they are to follow the policies advanced by the Party leadership.
The Provincial Assemblies will then elect the governors (provincial chairs) on the basis of a proposal advanced by the candidacy commission controlled by the Party at that level.
The National Assembly will then elect the president and vice president of the republic based on the proposal from the Party Politburo.
Neither mayors, nor governors nor the president of the country will be elected through a direct and secret citizen vote.
None of the candidates elected at different levels of government will defend any independent political, economic or social program, as all are expected to work to implement the Guidelines approved by the PCC, which is the body that stands above all popular sovereignty and is responsible for directing the course of the nation, according to Article 5 of the current constitution.
Any change to the current electoral law that does not entail the previous establishment of freedom of expression, association and election and maintains the premises of the single-party system, indirect vote, commissions and pre-selected candidates and the absence of any information about the candidates’ political programs, cannot guarantee a truly democratic and independent electoral process.
So, why hold the same old elections again? To continue to have the same results?
Those who want to change things stop using the same old means and methods. Those who do not want to change anything (and say they do) continue to do the same thing. It’s not that some are wiser than others, it’s simply that some want change and others do not. Without a doubt, there is wisdom to be found in doing things so that nothing will change.
Raul Castro has set out to define his government on the basis of austerity. This would be a good opportunity to put that austerity into practice and, rather than hold the same old elections and show that the government is truly willing to implement change, save on the expenses generated by this Soviet-styled election process and turn the situation around.
The road to follow could be the creation of a political atmosphere characterized by mutual trust and freedom of expression, association and election, an environment where a truly inclusive dialogue is possible. In addition, a new referendum for the establishment of a legally-constituted State should be held, and an electoral law should be passed that guarantees different political currents the right to defend their programs and advance their candidates in truly democratic, multi-party and free elections. The constitution and electoral law must be discussed in a broad, horizontal and free debate, and then approved through a nationwide referendum.
This process, leading up to the new elections, could take more or less a year, or the time left in Raul Castro’s presidency. It would be a democratic opening that the majority of the people would be grateful for, though the old mentality that the president himself has asked us to leave behind does not seem capable of generating any initiatives in this direction.
The Communist Party, convinced it’s done the best for the Cuban people over the past half century, and sure of its broad, popular support, should not fear losing the support of the majority in truly democratic and free elections.
This way, it would do justice to the demand of the Cuban people who took up arms against Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship, which had suspended the constitution through its coup in March of 1952. The government that took power following the revolution of 1959 put aside the national demand for democratization, because its leaders decided to prioritize its social program and the new “socialist” course, leading to the counterrevolution, imperialist aggression and the blockade/embargo (all of which have been used to justify postponing such democratization).
This process, coupled with the removal of all obstacles, monopolies and regulations that curtail the country’s productive forces, that prevent people from enjoying Internet access, that bar medical doctors, dentists, architects, lawyers and other professionals from having their own, private practices, that hamper the development of independent cooperatives and other forms of free associated labor, that maintain the State wage system as the main axis of the economy and thwart the development of other needed forms of production and investment, is the only quick road to a society that includes everyone and works for everyone’s benefit.
Those who call for the democratization of Cuban society, no matter what our political tendency and without the need to waive or identity or renounce to our mid and long-term programs, could agree to the following, basic platform:
- A nationwide debate characterized by freedom of expression, association and election.
- A new constitution.
- 3 constitutional State and 4. A new electoral law.