The Cuban government managed to mobilize voters Sunday to renew the National Assembly in an unsurprising election with 470 candidates for 470 seats, reversing the abstentionist trend of recent years after an unusual election campaign in this communist country.
All 23,648 polling stations closed at 19 p.m. local time, an hour later than initially announced by election authorities. The counting of ballots began in the aftermath.
According to the latest provisional figures available, at 17 p.m., the turnout, the only issue in the election, was 70.33%, according to the National Electoral Council, which did not specify when the final figure would be known. The results of the election are expected in the coming days.
However, this provisional turnout is higher than the final rate of the most recent election: 68.5% in the municipal elections of November, which had represented the lowest since the establishment of the electoral system on the island in 1976. In September, turnout was 74% in the referendum on the Family Code, and 90% in the referendum on the new Constitution in 2019.
In Cuba, voting is not compulsory, but opposition is prohibited.
"Vote for all"
Eight million Cubans were called to ratify the 470 candidates, 263 women and 207 men, mostly members of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP, unique), destined to occupy the 470 seats in the National Assembly of People's Power for the next five years.
Voters had two options on their ballots: tick the name of one or more candidates in the constituency or tick the "vote for all" option, which implies support for the 470 candidates and increases their legitimacy, each of whom must obtain more than 50% of the vote to be elected.
"I voted for everyone, because despite the needs, the difficulties that this country may have, I do not conceive of giving my vote," abstaining, "to those who want to crush us, trample us, to the Yankees!" said Carlos, 54, in reference to the United States, which has imposed an embargo on the island since 1962.
Among the 470 candidates, nominated by parliamentary and municipal committees, are CPC President and First Secretary Miguel Díaz-Canel, 62, and former leader Raul Castro, 91. "With the united vote [for all], we defend the unity of the country, the unity of the revolution, our future, our socialist Constitution," said Miguel Díaz-Canel, after voting in the city of Santa Clara, 280 kilometers from Havana, where he is a candidate.
Several weeks before the election, the candidates, including the president, conducted an unprecedented field campaign in this country unaccustomed to electoral proselytism, to collect the grievances of voters.
The head of state has visited his hometown of Santa Clara a dozen times to mobilize voters. The meetings between candidates and citizens were widely broadcast on state television.
This legislative election comes at a time when Cuba is going through its worst economic crisis in thirty years, with galloping inflation and an unprecedented migratory wave, under the combined effect of the consequences of the pandemic, the strengthening of US sanctions and the country's economic weaknesses.
Deprived of candidates, the opposition had called for abstention on social networks. Dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua, a member of Cuba's Council for Democratic Transition, wrote on Twitter that he was attentive to "the electoral mathematics of the government."
"At 9 a.m., he says 18.2 percent of the electorate voted. At 11 a.m., 41.66%. This means that in less than two hours participation increased by 23.46%. Impossible! The polling stations are empty," he said.
He later said his home and that of another activist "were under siege" by state security, as they wished to witness the counting at polling stations.
Before the end of 2023, Miguel Diaz-Canel, the first president to lead the country after the years of power of brothers Fidel Castro and Raul Castro, is expected to be a candidate for re-election before deputies for a second and final term under the Constitution.
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