On April 19, 11,424 delegates to the 149 municipal assemblies were elected. In 1,165 voting districts, no candidate received a majority, and a second round was held on April 26.
There are three ways for Cubans to express in Cuban elections their dissatisfaction with the Cuban political-economic system: (1) not voting; (2) depositing a blank ballot; and (3) completing the ballot incorrectly, including writing on the ballot. In the latter case, the ballot is “annulled” by the National Electoral Commission responsible for the administration of the elections.
In the election of April 12, 90.52% of the ballots were valid, having correctly marked an “X” for one of the two or more candidates; 4.54% were blank; and 4.92% were annulled. Taking into account the voter turnout of 89.88%, we can interpret the results to mean that 81.36% of the Cuban people affirmed their support of the political-economic system by going to the polls and depositing a valid ballot with an “X” marked for one of the candidates to the municipal assembly.
In the Cuban political system, institutionally established by the Constitution of 1976, citizens eighteen years of age or older are eligible to be elected to the municipal assemblies, whether or not they are members of the Cuban Communist Party. The candidates are nominated through a series of nomination assemblies held in each voting district. Any citizen can put forward the name of a person, and the merits of those named are discussed by the assembly. In the nomination assemblies that I have attended, one to three persons were put forward for consideration, persons who were active in a mass organization or in community service. Several persons took the floor to express the positive qualities of one of the persons whose name had been put forward. In the nomination assemblies, I never heard anyone speak negatively of one of the persons named. It seems to me that, to some extent, the nomination assemblies function to provide the people with an opportunity to express their appreciation of highly committed and community-serving persons, who frequently are present at the nomination assemblies. At the end of the nomination assembly, preferences are expressed by a show of hands.
In informal conversations among the people, it is being said that in the process leading to the elections of April 19, there emerged among the candidates on the ballot a couple of persons identified with the Cuban counterrevolution centered in Miami and supported by the United States. However, these candidates found that they had almost no support among the voters in their districts, and they thus withdrew their names from the ballot.
The election of April 19 were “partial elections.” Every five years, “general elections” are held. The partial elections establish municipal assemblies, which elect the presidents and vice-presidents of the municipal assemblies. In the general election, the elected delegates of the municipal assemblies, in addition to electing their presidents and vice-presidents, also nominate delegates to the provincial assemblies and deputies to the national assembly, which are presented to the electorate for ratification in a secret vote. Once formed, the national assembly elects the executive branch of the government, known as the Council of State. Through this process, Fidel Castro was for many years elected and reelected President of the Council of States, a position now held by Raúl Castro.
Although extremely high by international standards, the nearly 90% is relatively low by Cuban standards. Until 2010, Cuba consistently had a voter turnout of 95% or higher. I attribute this to a slight erosion of popular enthusiasm for the Cuban revolutionary project, which is a consequence of two principal factors: (1) the shortages and the hardships that the people have had to endure since the collapse of the socialist bloc and the corresponding tightening of the US blockade; and (2) the influence of the consumer societies of the North, stimulated by international tourists in Cuba, the visits of family members living abroad, and the Internet.
The slight erosion of revolutionary commitment and values is most evident in the city of Havana, as is indicated by the fact that the voter turnout in Havana was 84.32%, whereas the other provinces had from 89.63 to 93.58% voter turnout.
The significance of this erosion should not be exaggerated. It is understandable it light of the international situation in which the Cuban revolution must make its way, and popular support for and participation in the Cuban revolution remains strong. It is no sense implies the emergence of a counterrevolution within Cuba, for the counterrevolution has been discredited by its association with the imperialist foreign policy objectives of the United States as well as by the evident and significant gains and benefits of the revolutionary project.
Rather than a counterrevolution from within, what has been emerging is a sense of dissatisfaction, particularly with the level and quality of production and distribution of goods and services. The dissatisfaction is expressed in other ways, in addition to the slight decrease in voter turnout. When it attains political expression through the structures of popular power and mass organizations, it is in the form of a popular demand to improve efficiency in production and distribution, within the context of the established socialist political-economic system. The new economic and social model, proposed by the party in 2012, modified through popular consultation, and approved by the national assembly in 2014, is an effort to respond to this popular desire.
In spite of a level of popular dissatisfaction, the Cuban people are too politically mature to believe that the global powers and the international finance agencies have the answers to their problems. They understand that the dominant global actors have neither the interest nor the capacity to resolve the problems that the majority of the people in the world confront. They understand that the solutions to the multi-faceted and interrelated problems that humanity confronts must emerge from below; and they are proud that socialist Cuba, in spite of its imperfections, is an important actor in the emerging just and democratic world-system being developed by the peoples of the world from below.
As Fidel has said, the future of Cuba is tied to the future of the world. If, led by the misguided neoliberal and militarist policies of the global elite, the world-system falls more and more into chaos, then there will be a decline of hope in Cuba and elsewhere. But if the just and reasonable process emerging from below, represented most clearly by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and by the Non-Aligned Movement, can overcome obstacles and attain full expression, then Cuba will fulfill its destiny and take its place in history as a leading force in the creation of democratic world-system, in which the true sovereignty of nations is upheld, the social and economic rights of all are respected, a political system of popular democracy is the norm, and nature is held in awe and reverence.