Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 232 April/May 2013
On 24 February 2013, a new government was formed in Cuba when the recently elected delegates to the National Assembly of People’s Power met to vote in the new Council of State. On 3 February, 90.8% of eligible voters had turned out to vote for candidates at provincial and national levels. Massive voter turnout is usual in socialist Cuba where the masses are politically engaged. VICTORIA SMITH reports.
Cubans over the age of 16 vote every two and a half years for representatives to the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power and every five years for representatives to Provincial Assemblies. Half of 614 delegates voted into the National Assembly are voted up from Municipal and Provincial Assemblies, whilst the other half represent the various organisations of the masses.
Candidates cannot self-nominate, nor be nominated by any political party, not even the Cuban Communist Party (CCP), as there are no ‘party candidates’ in Cuban elections. Candidates represent their constituents, thus preventing conflicts between party and public interests. Candidates are nominated by their peers in open and public assemblies. Their nomination is based on merit, which in Cuba means their contribution to the community. Elected officials retain their existing employment and salaries, with travel expenses only received by delegates to Provincial Assemblies and to the National Assembly of People’s Power. There is no financial incentive to be a politician in Cuba, as there is in bourgeois democracies. Also, unlike in Britain, Cubans have the right to recall their elected representatives who must ‘render account’ at least twice a year to their constituents, to engage in criticism and self-criticism and ensure that they are working for the people.
Following this year’s elections, 49% of delegates in the National Assembly are women (compared to 25% of MPs in Britain) and 37% are black or mixed race, closely matching population statistics. The result reflects the determination within the socialist Revolution to combat gender and race discrimination, and encourage the traditionally oppressed sectors of society to take a leadership role.
The National Assembly then elected the 31-member Council of State (41.9% women and 38.6% black or mixed race), which has the authority to exercise legislative power between meetings of the Assembly. The Council of State then elected Raul Castro as its President. He is also the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the CCP. In his speech to the National Assembly Raul Castro reiterated: ‘I was not elected President to restore capitalism in Cuba, not to surrender the Revolution. I was elected to defend, maintain and continue perfecting socialism, not to destroy it.’ He also restated two proposed changes to the Cuban Constitution which would limit ‘to a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms the principal positions of state and government, and to establish maximum ages for occupying these positions’. He confirmed that this would be his last mandate, ending in 2018.
That announcement excited the bourgeois media, but behind their hysteria the reality is that Cuba has a strong cadre policy, bringing new and young people into leadership at local, regional and national levels in numerous sectors and grass roots organisations. 61.3% of the National Assembly were born after the Revolution seized power in 1959. The Assembly went on to elect Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez as First Vice-President of the Council of State. Diaz-Canel is 52 years old and was born after the Revolution. Like most Cubans, Diaz-Canel has military training, he is an electronic engineer and has worked first in the Union of Young Communists and then in the CCP for 30 years. He served on an internationalist mission in Nicaragua and has been Minister for Higher Education, Vice President of the Council of Ministers and participates in the government’s Financial Economic Commission and the CCP’s Political Bureau’s Commission supervising the implementation of the guidelines for updating the Cuban economy approved by the 6th session of the CCP Congress in 2011.
Raul described Diaz-Canel’s election as ‘of particular historical significance because it represents a definitive step in the configuration of the country’s future leadership, via the gradual and orderly transfer of the principal positions to the new generations’.