REAL Democracy in Cuba
Hermed følger Dan Christensens artikel om demokrati i Cuba
Democracy REAL democracy is alive and well in Cuba. Forget
the US State Departments propaganda . . . Since the electoral reforms of the early
90s the culmination of more than 100 years of struggle Cuba has become
perhaps the most democratic society in the world. And unlike the rich mans
"dollar democracy" that we have come to know, it unifies the people and gives
full expression to their collective will. Following is a description of the institutional
means by which this is achieved the Cuban electoral process.
My remarks here are based largely on the recent book, "Democracy in
Cuba and the 1997-98 Elections." The author, Arnold August (Canada, 1944), is the
first non-Cuban who has directly attended virtually all the steps of the contemporary
Cuban electoral process. His book is based on many months of painstaking research,
personal observation and interviews in Cuba.
The Cuban electoral process is a two-step process. The first step is the
election of delegates to the municipal assemblies. Municipalities are not to be confused
with cities or towns. Havana, a city of two million people, for example, is composed of 15
municipalities. Plazas de la Revolution is one of these municipalities. It is subdivided
into 104 constituencies. One of these, Constituency Number 12, is the basis for an
in-depth case study in Augusts book. One can walk around this particular
constituency in about 15 minutes. It has a population of about 1,800. One municipal
delegate represents this population.
August also chose another constituency, Constituency Number 43, in the
rural municipality of Abreus in the province of Cienfuegos as the basis of another case
study. One of nine constituencies in Abreus, it is based on the town Horquitas. This
constituency is composed in the main of four farm cooperatives and has a population of
about 5,000. It is represented by no less than nine delegates to the municipal assembly.
The Nomination and Election of Municipal Delegates
For the purposes of nominating candidates to the municipal assemblies,
constituencies are divided into nomination areas. Constituency Number 12 in Plaza de la
Revolution, for example, was divided into seven nomination areas. There, they correspond
roughly to one side of a street in a city block. Most nomination meetings take place on
the street or in local meeting halls. Anyone can attend, Cubans and foreigners alike. At
the meeting, any registered voter in that constituency can nominate anyone else residing
in there. Those nominating a candidate usually give a brief explanation of the reason for
their choice. Anyone present may speak for or against a nominee. At the close of
nominations, registered voters in attendance vote by a show of hands. The nominee with the
most votes will be a candidate for the local municipal assembly. In any given
constituency, there will typically be between two and eight candidates for one or more
seats on the municipal assembly. Municipal elections are very low key affairs.
Standardized posters with photographs and a brief biography of each candidate are simply
posted in public places. Money simply does not enter the picture. It costs nothing to be
elected to the municipal assembly or to any other political office in Cuba for that
matter. Delegates are elected by secret ballot.
The Nomination of Candidates
to the Provincial and National Assemblies
Candidates for the provincial and national assemblies are nominated by
the municipal assemblies who, as we have seen, are themselves nominated and elected by the
people in a fair and open process at the "grassroots" neighbourhood level. This,
I believe, is key to the resiliency and strength of Cuban democracy.
Unlike the delegates to municipal assembly, delegates nominated to the
provincial and national assemblies need not reside in the municipality in which they are
nominated. To get the best candidates, the municipal assemblies consult with local and
national plenums of various mass organizations who conduct a nation-wide talent search.
The municipal assembly may reject their recommendations in whole or in part. For the most
part, however, they are accepted. Typically, about half the candidates are already
delegates to the municipal assembly.
The Provincial and National Elections and the United Vote
Also, unlike the municipal elections, there is only one candidate
nominated for each seat. Each voter will get a chance to vote for several candidates for
both levels of government and is encouraged to vote for ALL of them the so-called
"united vote." He or she may vote for none, some or all of them on a secret
ballot. He or she may also secretly turn in a spoiled or blank ballot to register some
kind of protest. These ballots too are recorded in the official results. Each candidate is
required to get at least 50 percent of the vote to be elected.
Since the candidates may not be known to the voters in an area,
opportunities to meet them and discuss concerns on any issue are organized by the local
electoral commissions. August describes several such meetings. Typically, these occur at
the voters places of work. As in the municipal elections, posters with a photograph
and a brief biography of each candidate are posted in public places. There is no
"electioneering" as we know it. Missing are the mudslinging, hate mongering,
"promises" and lies.
The Results of the 1998 Elections
Voter turnout for the Provincial and National election was 98.35 %.
94.45% of those casting an eligible vote did so for ALL candidates
the so-called united vote.
3.36% of ballots were blank and 1.66% were spoiled.
In 1998, the National Assembly was comprised of 601 delegates. Here is a
breakdown of their various backgrounds (some delegates are counted more than once as they
hold positions in addition to their full-time jobs):
145 workers, peasants, cooperative workers, educators,
health service employees and others directly linked to production and services
7 sports men and women
30 journalists, writers, artists and other cultural
35 from the Armed Forces or Ministry of Interior
64 leaders and functionaries of the Communist Party of
Cuba or Communist Youth
56 leaders of mass organizations
41 leaders and functionaries of the state apparatus
173 leaders of local government
90 leaders of the consejos populares
21 administrators or functionaries in the national
3 religious pastors
Their average age was 45.
28 percent were women.
46 percent of them were originally nominated in the municipal nomination
Rendering of Accounts and the Right of Recall
Delegates traditionally meet at six-month intervals with their
constituents in small neighbourhood meetings to give an account of themselves, hear
complains, solve problems and discuss various initiatives. August describes several such
meetings which he attended. Topics ranged from the cost of meals on the lunch wagon at job
sights to the administration of healthcare. As happens from time to time, if constituents
are unsatisfied with their delegate they can recall him or her and hold another election.
The Election of the Council of State and The President
The National Assembly meets twice a year over its five-year term. Once
it is established, it nominates and elects by secret ballot the 31 member Council of State
including the President (Fidel Castro). The Council of State represents the National
Assembly when it is not in session and is accountable for its actions to the National
Cuba is a REAL democracy. Far from hampering democracy, the lack of an
adversarial, multiparty system based of money was key to building a REAL peoples
democracy. As we have seen, the basis of power rests not with any political party or elite
group, but at the "grassroots" neighbourhood level. Is it any wonder the US
government will stop at nothing in its attempt to crush the Cuban Revolution?