CUBAN GOVERNMENT CAPITOL BUILDINGS
SEAT OF THE CUBAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF PEOPLE’S POWER
“Government of the People, by the People, and for the People.”
“Values of collectivity and social consciousness”
The great transformations that took place in Cuba since the triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1959 led to an inclusive involvement of the people in the real management of society. On that basis, a new system emerged and developed with, as much as possible, direct democratic forms to the inevitably representative character that institutions should have in a modern democracy.
Main Characteristics of the Cuban Electoral System
As a result of such ideas, a new institutional and election system was enshrined in the Constitution of 1976, which was discussed by millions and passed by way of a referendum by over 97% of the electorate.
The Communist Party of Cuba neither nominates nor campaigns for candidates. The Party is not an election party, but the historical heir of the Revolutionary Party that Jose Marti organized to unite Cubans and attain independence.
Cuba is not a dictatorship. No dictatorship would have survived for 57 years without the support of the people.
Democracy is not graded by the number of parties you have but rather how the people can participate – Participatory Democracy.
While Socialism, as a system, provides greater power to the people; being a Socialist country does not mean that Democracy automatically translates into real and effective power for the vast majority of the people. Only Participatory Democracy – the people’s ongoing daily involvement in the political and economic affairs of the country assures Democracy.
Fidel Castro was the Premier, then President of Cuba for 49 years. In 2008, after a lengthy illness, President Fidel Castro resigned as Cuba’s President.
“Soon I will be 90,” Fidel Castro said during a rare public appearance in Havana in April 2016 at a meeting of the island’s Communist Party. “Never would such an idea have occurred to me. It was not the fruit of any effort; it was the whim of fate. Soon I will be like all the rest.”
Raúl Castro was officially elected President by the National Assembly on 24 February 2008, after Fidel Castro, who was still ailing, announced his intention not to stand for President again. On 19 February 2008 Raul Castro was elected President and was re-elected President on 24 February 2013. Shortly thereafter, he announced that his second term would be his final term, and that he would not seek re-election in 2018. The Castro’s are loved by most all Cubans, but Fidel and Raul Castro along with all the original revolutionary leadership will soon be gone. There will be change and the future is uncertain but thankfully, there is a determination amongst the people that the revolutionary goals and ideals shall remain.
Cuban System of Government
The National Assembly of People’s Power
The National Assembly of People’s Power is the legislative parliament of the Republic of Cuba and the supreme body of State power. Its 612 members are elected from single-member electoral districts for a term of five years. The Assembly meets twice a year or more often if called upon by Council of State. Between sessions the Assembly is represented by the 31 member Council of State. Council members are elected from within the National Assembly. The National Assembly also has permanent departments that oversee the work of the Commissions, Local Assemblies, Judicial Affairs, and Administration.
Council of State
The Council of State of Cuba is a 31-member body of the government of Cuba, elected by the National Assembly of People’s Power. It has the authority to exercise most legislative power between sessions of the National Assembly of People’s Power, subject to its approval, and to call the National Assembly of People’s Power into session between its scheduled twice yearly sessions. The membership consists of a President, a Secretary, a First Vice President, five Vice Presidents, and 27 additional members. The President, the Secretary, the First Vice President, and the five Vice Presidents are also members of the Council of Ministers.
Council of Ministers
The Council of Ministers, also referred to as simply the Cabinet of Cuba, is the highest ranking executive and administrative body of the Republic of Cuba and, along with the Council of State, constitutes the nation’s government. It consists of the President, the First Vice President and the seven Vice Presidents.
The Executive Committee is a smaller body, consisting of the President and Vice Presidents of the Council of State, the Secretary and those ministers chosen by the President. The Council of Ministers is responsible for the implementation of policy agreements authorized by the National Assembly of People’s Power. These are designated to individual ministries. The council also proposes general plans for economic and social development, which are in turn authorized by the National Assembly twice yearly.
The Election Law in force provides for two kinds of election processes:
Election of Municipal Assembly delegates takes place every two and a half years. Candidates for these posts are nominated and elected, through secret ballot, by voters in public gatherings in each electoral constituency.
General Elections take place every five years to elect deputies to the National Assembly of People’s Power and Provincial Assembly delegates. In these elections, half the candidates are nominated by mass public solidarity organizations (such as trade unions, women’s organizations, farmers’ organizations and student unions) representing the broadest interests of society. The other half of the candidates are nominated by the newly elected municipal Assemblies.
In the case of the election of delegates to the Provincial Assemblies and of deputies to the People’s Power National Assembly, the same electoral guidelines will apply as with the Municipal Assembly delegate elections.
Preceding elections there is a door-to-door enumeration and voters’ lists are produced. All Cubans age 16 and over have the right to vote, which is totally voluntarily, and participation is high. Any citizen of the community can put his or her name up for nomination.
Campaigning consists of the displaying of the candidates’ biographies, with photos, of the candidates in public places and at organized meetings of constituents. This extends to meetings in work places within the constituency. There is no paid political advertising.
The nominated candidate must receive a majority vote. If needed there are runoffs between the two candidates receiving the most votes. To be elected a candidate is also required to win over 50% of the valid ballots.
Elected representatives receive no pay beyond their regular salaries. It is considered an honour to be a representative of the people.
All elected officials at all levels in Cuba are subject to re-call by the people anytime during their term in office.
The current Constitution of Cuba, designed to institutionalize the revolution, was adopted, in February 1976 after a referendum where it received overwhelming support. It took effect on 24 February 1976.
In 1992, after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the resultant economic crisis of the Special Period, a constitutional amendment removed certain limitations on foreign investment and granted foreign corporations a limited right to own property on the island if they established joint ventures with the government. Another amendment established that Cuba is a secular state rather than an atheist state, prompting an expansion of local participation in religious observance, increased social service work on the part of sectarian international charities, and public recognition of religious pluralism.
In 2002, the constitution was amended to stipulate that the socialistic system was permanent and irrevocable. This amended constitution called for a centralized control of the market and re-committed the state to providing its citizens with access to free education and health care. The state was further granted the power to regulate the activities of religious institutions and the private ownership of media was prohibited.
Role of the Communist Party of Cuba
The Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) is a Communist party of the Marxist-Leninist model. The Cuban constitution ascribes the role of the Party to be the “leading force of society and of the state.” No party is permitted to campaign or endorse candidates for election, including the Communist Party. The CPC’s role is one of guidance, supervision and of guarantor of participatory democracy. Candidates are elected on an individual referendum basis without formal party affiliation, although elected assemblies predominantly consist of members of the dominant party alongside non-affiliated candidates.
“Cubans do not claim having achieved a level of democratic development that cannot be surpassed. On the contrary, various important innovations have been introduced to the system and to its methods and mechanisms and they are making constant efforts to improve it. Achieving full, true and systematic participation by the people in the management and control of society – which is the essence of democracy – is a goal whose achievement should be sought incessantly.”
Canadian author, journalist and lecturer ARNOLD AUGUST, author of “Democracy in Cuba and the 1997-98 Elections” and “Cuba and its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion” is an excellent source for greater knowledge of Cuban Democracy and the Electoral Process.
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