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Cuba: a predictable electoral process without citizen participation 

The Polish-American political scientist Adam Przeworski has pointed out on different occasions that a characteristic of the processes of transition to democracy is both the certainty in the procedures of political decision-making and the uncertainty in its results.

Certainty in the procedures, uncertainty in the results: this is probably not one of the best definitions to explain the gubernatorial elections that took place in Cuba last May 4, given that we are faced with an electoral system based on certainty both in the electoral process and in the consequences of the implementation of the state’s electoral machinery: in short, it was once again an “election without surprises”.

In effect, the Communist Party of Cuba-PCC, as the central pillar of the socialist regime on the island, has called for an electoral process in which what has been absent is precisely citizen participation in the provinces of Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Villa Clara, and Santiago de Cuba. In an indirect electoral process, the delegates of the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power in those provinces have ratified the provincial governors from a candidacy nominated by the President of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel. The black swan in Cuba are the fathers.

A recently published report by the non-governmental organization Transparencia Electoral, “Elections” of governors in Cuba 2024, gives an account in its executive summary of a series of irregularities and expressions typical of a political system in a crisis already with a chronic character:

● Like all electoral processes (direct or indirect) administered by the National Electoral Council (CEN), the Cuban electoral authority, irregularities, improvisation, and opacity in its organization were reported.

● This process has been called within the framework of a replacement of political posts in the country, typically known as the “manager movement”. Officials from various spheres of the state have been removed or relieved recently.

● The holding of numerous by-elections earlier this year to fill the little-publicized but persistent vacancies in the Municipal Assemblies, the electorate of this vote, shows us a remarkable hemorrhaging of political officials.

● These surveys indicate a crisis within the Cuban political power, despite the secrecy with which these changes are usually handled in order to maintain the unity of the Cuban regime in the face of external pressures.

● Beyond all this, the promotions of numerous institutional positions to positions within the Communist Party of Cuba, the only legal political formation, show that the real epicenter of power is the party, not the nominally elected state officials.

● The fact that an unelected, unaudited entity with “social vanguard” power exercises this level of coercion over institutions is the most basic demonstration of the inability of Cuban citizens to influence political decision-making in their country.

The German political scientist Dieter Nohlen reminds us that, in a more general sense, elections represent the democratic method of appointing representatives. In a narrower sense, they constitute a technique for appointing representatives, since elections are not a procedure exclusive to democratic regimes. The opportunity and freedom to choose must be protected by law: when these conditions are given, we speak of competitive elections; when they are limited in some way, we are dealing with semi-competitive elections, and when the opportunity and freedom to choose are denied, we are in the presence of non-competitive elections.

Examples of competitive elections are those that took place in countries with democracies that emerged during the different waves of democratization from the second half of the 19th century. The cases of Brazil during the military regime between 1964 and 1985 and Argentina in the period 1955-1973 represent a type of semi-competitive election. We can mention Venezuela during the current regime of the V Republic, Nicaragua with the Ortega/Murillo dynasty, and Cuba as an expression of non-competitive elections.

In short, we are facing a political regime of  “democracy for the people? without the people”.

As stated by political scientist and executive director of the NGO Electoral Transparency, Leandro Querido, Cuba continues to be on the margins of the democratic world.

*Translated by Janaína Ruviaro da Silva from the original in Spanish.

Autor

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Cientista político. Profesor asociado de la Univeridad de Buenos Aires (UBA). Doctor en América Latina Contemporánea por el Instituto Universitario de Investigación Ortega y Gasset (España).

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