Tuesday, April 21, 2015

1817. Cuban Local Elections: So What Does Voting for Cuba Mean?

By Yusimi Rodriquez, Havana Times, April 20, 2015
A woman casting ballot in Cuba's local elections
The elections for representatives of Cuba’s Municipal People’s Power Assemblies were held yesterday. For years, I’ve voted so as not to draw unwanted attention, so that my mom won’t have reason to worry, so as not to run into any problems looking for a job that involves a background check at my Committee for the Defense of the Revolution.

I’ve voted for every imaginable reason, save as an effort to improve things in my community. I don’t know if anyone on my block, in my neighborhood or in the entire country, for that matter, has ever voted in the hopes of seeing some improvement where they live. I am not speaking of voting as a means of demonstrating loyalty to and confidence in “our democracy” or to fulfill a duty as citizens. It is senseless to consider voting a duty or a right if we have no hope it will actually help change something.

During the last partial elections, I voted for someone I knew in primary school, and I did so hoping he would do a good job as representative. I had nothing but this hope, for I never did find out what his plans were, how he was thinking of solving the problems we were facing. The only thing he had over the other candidate was the fact I knew him. The other candidate was nothing more than a solemn-looking face that stared at me from a small black and white photo on top of a short bio. His merits were more or less the same as those of my former classmate.

This year, I’ve found myself in the same situation: two candidates, two photos, two lists of merits, and having to choose what is most important for a representative. Is it holding a university degree rather a high school diploma? Having been a member of the Young Communists League or the Party? Having been class monitor for Spanish and Physical Education more than thirty years ago?

Can I base my vote on the fact a person was a good student in primary and secondary school? What importance could that have in terms of the way someone is to deal with pot-holes and shoddy repair work, with bus drivers that deliberately miss stops and the need for more landlines?

This time around, I could have voted for the familiar face again, following the old maxim that tis better to stick with the “devil you know.” But, would that have been fair to the other candidate, and to me?

How could I possibly be fair, not knowing what their plans are, the way they intend to address the community’s problems?

Speaking to voters about plans and projects is considered a form of electoral campaigning and that was abolished a very long time ago in Cuba. As a voter, you can choose from among two candidates only on the basis of two short bios that can be very similar.

What are you to do if the choice is between two Party militants who have gone on internationalist missions and hold university degrees? Your vote is reduced to choosing whether you prefer a man or a woman, a doctor or a lawyer, someone who went to Africa or someone who worked in Venezuela.

I am sure the two candidates in my district are honest people. That only guarantees they will not take advantage of their position to secure personal benefits, it does not guarantee they will be efficient representatives.

At any rate, I didn’t actually vote for either. I hope whoever got elected is able to do a good job, but I don’t believe an election based on a bio can be serious. It is far less serious and civic to vote in order to avoid unwanted attention.

I decided to void my vote because of this. It is not a political stance. I believe a pro-government candidate can do as good a job as a member of the opposition (though I know of no such dissidents ever having occupied the position).

We aren’t talking about freedom of association or of the press, nor of the right to a direct vote – at least not at this level. We are talking about the neighborhood’s problems. Those of us who choose, or, rather, vote, must have the right to know the intentions of the candidates. Only thus can we vote responsibly and feel that we truly are choosing.

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