Elections in Cuba: A Cautionary Success in Difficult Times

By Gustavo A Maranges on November 29, 2022

This year has been really active in Latin America when it comes to elections which have taken place in Chile, Colombia, Brazil, and, last but not least, Cuba.

Each of these electoral processes had a special meaning. In Chile, the people defeated a neo-fascist candidate, and in Colombia, they elected the first leftist President in 200 years of republican history. Meanwhile, in Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva returned to power to end four years of ultra-right management. Last Sunday’s elections in Cuba marked the beginning of the electoral process, which ends in 2023 after the vote for representatives to the People’s National Assembly and the highest government positions.

In this process, the elected candidates were proposed by their own neighbors in their local communities, and they will make up the People’s Municipal Assemblies, which is the equivalent of city councils in US cities. These assemblies are the closest governmental bodies to the communities, and their responsibilities and powers were widely expanded after the enactment of the 2019 Constitution. Candidates are elected by a simple majority, and if they do not account for the necessary votes, the two most voted should go to a runoff, which will be held next December 4.

In this election 11,505 out of 12,427 vacant seats were elected in the first round. Some 51% of the candidates were reelected for a second term, and about 44% were women.

These elections have a special significance as they will be the first to be held after the 2019 Constitution was passed, and they will also take place amid the deepest economic crisis the country has experienced since the 1990s, something not to lose sight of.

According to the National Electoral Council, the final turnout was 68.58%, the lowest since 1976. It means abstentionism spiked up to 31%, which is 13 points higher if compared to the previous elections (2017) and 7% higher than the Referendum for the Family Code. Right wing articles in the US are already kicking into overdrive to claim that the higher number of abstentions indicates a decrease in people’s support of the current government, but this an attack that does not explain the complexity of the situation.

It is undeniable that there are currently people who are not happy with the management of the Cuban government, but proclaiming that those who did not vote are all against the government and Cuba’s political system is simply not true

The first fact to take into account is the acute economic crisis that the country has been facing for two years now. The shortages suffered by 11 million Cubans are severe and cannot help but cause a fatigue effect while admitting that most of their problems are beyond the Cuban government’s scope of possibilities. This does not take into account external elements such as the post-pandemic crisis or the strengthening of the economic, financial, and commercial blockade imposed by the United States. However, understanding the causes of their problems does not solve them or reduce their anger, and it is inevitable they would look for someone to direct their blame at. This reaction is as human as it is contradictory.

The Cuban President himself mentioned it after the Family Code referendum when he called it a “punishment vote.” This is not deserved and is in not directly linked to political reasons or opposition to the government.

Another issue is the distortions made up by the mainstream media, which often analyzes Cuba’s electoral and social processes under the logic of liberal democracies, putting aside the fact that Cuba operates under a different social system altogether. On the other hand, it is also intentional, since it fits perfectly with the Cuban opposition and the regional right-wing’s speech to delegitimize the current government. They were silent 5 years ago when the turnouts were astronomical, and coincidentally, the economic situation in Cuba was much more favorable.

No one can read the results honestly without factoring in the permanent media war Cuba faces, which reached its climax on July 11, 2021. From Florida and with the support of small groups inside Cuba, the opposition made a call to non-participation, which should not be underestimated at this point.

Measuring the impact of each of these facts demands a much deeper investigation, but certainly, the simplistic readings that the corporate media is willing to impose leading to erroneous conclusions.

One last note. It is impossible to isolate Cuba from regional and global dynamics. The growing Internet penetration onto the island, especially through social media, has made Cuban society much more porous to foreign trends. In other words, Cuba is becoming more and more similar to its surroundings and if we compare these results with the world and regional average, the voter turnout continues to be very high. Especially if we take into account that these are local elections and voting in Cuba is not mandatory.

The results show Cuba is not the same as it was five years ago; it is a new scenario, a different reality, and the government is facing bigger challenges that make it even more difficult for the majority of people who are dedicated to building socialism against all odds.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – US