Cubans embrace one-party democracy

By Chris Cloonan

Carolina Hidalgo/JWW

HAVANA – In Cuba, there are no campaigns. No televised debates. No Republicans vs. Democrats. But there are, in fact, local, state and national elected officials.

And — in comparison to the United States’ 56 percent voter turnout in the 2008 presidential elections — a nearly 97 percent turnout in the island nation’s latest parliamentary elections.

So although the Cuban system works much differently than ours, it nonetheless gives the Cuban people a taste of democracy, albeit one that might seem bland to the average American.

To vote in Cuba, one must be at least 16 years old, in sound mental health and not in prison. To be eligible to be a candidate, one must be at least 16, reside in the district one is seeking to represent and not be considered an enemy of the state.

To familiarize themselves to voters, candidates post autobiographies in public places. Local elections, by law, must have two to eight candidates running. Candidates, who do not have to be official members of the Communist Party of Cuba, are chosen at block meetings run by local Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. The committees serve as a cross between civic associations and neighborhood watch groups.

A candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the vote to win and avoid a runoff. Municipal elections are held every two and a half years.

National and provincial elections, by contrast, are not as democratic in that there’s only one candidate for each district. The candidates are chosen by the municipal assemblies, not by the local citizens at CDR meetings.

These national and provincial candidates need only 50 percent of the vote to win. These elections are held every five years. A candidate has never lost.