Cubans start Raul Castro’s departure in the voting booth
Cuban President Raul Castro in Caracas on March 5, 2018
The Cubans will elect on Sunday the Parliament which will be responsible for sealing the departure of President Raul Castro, a historic turning point planned next month in the big Caribbean island.
The singular process of these general elections is repeated every five years. A total of 605 candidates have been invested for as many seats of deputies, but they must be elected by the eight million voters over 16, called to the polls from 7:00 local (12:00 GMT).
Even if it is played in advance, this election remains in the eyes of Ramon Perez “the most important of the last years, since we will vote for new leaders”.
Enthusiastic, this night guard at a daycare in Havana even intends to take advantage of the change in summer time to go directly to vote after work.
These general elections – which will also elect 1,265 provincial delegates – are the first to be held since the death, at the end of 2016, of the father of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro.
But they are above all a crucial step towards the end of nearly 60 years of unchallenged power of the Castro brothers.
On 16 April, the deputies elected on Sunday will appoint the members of the State Council, the supreme executive body, which will appoint in the wake of the successor of 86-year-old Raul Castro, decided to hand over 12 years after succeeding his older brother .
– A delicate succession –
Pending a possible confirmation in the coming weeks, it is the first vice-president and number two of the government, Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, who seems best placed to assume the highest office in the Council of Cuban State.
If he is appointed, this engineer born after the revolution will have to establish his authority, consolidate the bases of the regime and pursue the essential “actualization” of the economic model of the island sketched by the younger Castro. Heavy loads for this apparatchik with a rather discreet profile.
In today’s Cuba, “the problem of the absence of a charismatic leader becomes exacerbated (…) the wear and tear of the lack of economic take-off without the hope of Fidel Castro’s captivating rhetoric. feels, “says Cuban expert Arturo Lopez-Levy, a professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
If he will hand over in a few weeks, Raul Castro will continue to watch over the country, since he will remain at the head of the all-powerful CPC until the next congress scheduled for 2021, the year of his 90th birthday.
– Relative diversity –
In Cuba, voter turnout is usually around 90%. Voting is not mandatory but is strongly encouraged by the authorities.
Deprived of candidates, without access to the media controlled by the state and the CCP, the opposition disputes these elections as biased and regrets the absence of direct presidential suffrage.
However, not all dissidents call for abstention. Groups such as “Cuba decides” for example call their supporters to vote blank or blacken their bulletins of protest slogans.
At the end of this poll, the full figures will be known Monday, the National Assembly will be renewed more than 50%, since 338 deputies will inaugurate their headquarters. For their part, most CCP caciques and the government must keep their mandates.
Notably, the presence of women will be even greater and this time will reach 53% of MPs, while the island is already one of the world champions in the field with 48% of MPs in the current legislature.
Similarly, black and mestizo communities will be more represented, with an increase of three points to 40%.
Many regret, however, that only three candidates come from the private sector, which concerns more than half a million Cubans.