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Running for office and voting in Cuba


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Given the strange voting rituals in the US I thought I would post this interesting article about voting in Cuba. Just as a comparison.

http://www.cpa.org.au/garchve08/1355cuba.html

When Cuba’s President and Commander- in-Chief Fidel Castro announced that he was stepping down, the accolades flowed in from around the world. But not from US President George W Bush, who called for "a period of democratic transition". Cuba must hold "free and fair" elections to pick a successor after half a century of communist rule, Bush said. "And I mean free and I mean fair", he added, "not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as true democracy". So, what is the electoral system that the Empire (as they call the US in Cuba) so desperately wants to rescue the Cuban people from?

People’s nominations

In Cuba there are three levels of government: municipal, provincial and national. Municipal representatives are elected for two and a half years and the provincial and national deputies for five-year terms.

The Electoral Commission organises meetings of voters in each electoral district. Depending on the size of the electorate there might, for example, be five or six such meetings in a municipal constituency. At these meetings it is the people who propose candidates for each level of government.

They must provide information on the person they are nominating, their experience, qualities, why they think that person would make a good representative. It is open to the meeting to discuss the merits of that person and also to raise any criticisms. Because of the local nature of the meetings, possible candidates are nominated and considered by those who know them. Those nominated may accept or decline giving reasons.

Before a name can go forward, a majority of the meeting must endorse that nomination. In the case of municipal elections (held October 2007) more than one name may be submitted from any meeting for the ballot paper. There is a requirement for a minimum of two candidates and maximum of eight for a seat. Nominations come in from all of the meetings.

Proposals for candidates for the 614-member National Assembly of People’s Power and 1,201 delegates to Provincial Assemblies are voted on at the meetings and the names go forward from each meeting. Municipal and Provincial assemblies may also nominate candidates from their ranks for the next higher assembly. Up to half of the National Assembly deputies may be municipal or provincial delegates.

Las Comisiones de Candidaturas (Candidature Commissions) have the responsibility of going through the nominations and selecting final candidates on the basis of merit and gaining a balanced assembly with broad representation across all ages, education levels, occupations?(including students and pensioners), genders, ethnicities, etc. The Commissions include representatives of the main mass organisations such as Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDRs), trade unions, farmers, Women’s Federation, combatants, higher education and middle level students.

In the most recent National Assembly elections more than 28% are farmers and workers in the production, service, education and health sectors. There is a higher presence of women at 43.16%; 35.67% are black or of mixed-race; the average age is 49 and 99.02% are educated to technical/vocational or university level. More than 56% of the newly-elected deputies were born after the triumph of the Revolution and the rate of renewal is 63.22% (385 deputies).

As in the US and Australia it is a one-person one-vote system and the ballot is secret. Voting is not compulsory. The voting age is 16, as is the minimum age for election to the municipal councils and provincial assemblies of people’s power. For the National Assembly the minimum age is 18.

On the ballot paper there is one candidate for each seat in the National and Provincial assemblies, based on the Candidature Commissions deliberations. It is possible to vote for the list, or consider each candidate one by one and to reject individual candidates. A candidate must receive a majority of votes to be elected. All voters vote on the total National Assembly, not just their seat, as happens in Australia.

When Fidel Castro called for a "Voto Unido", he was calling for a "united vote" for all candidates. In the National Assembly elections on January 20, 96.89 % of registered eligible voters turned out (8.23 million out of 8.5 m) and 95.24% were valid votes (the remainder blank or spoiled). Ninety-one per cent of the valid votes responded to the appeal for a "united vote" and the remainder chose to exercise their right to vote selectively.

Every single member of the National Assembly has had to be nominated at a public meeting, to have been endorsed by that meeting and gone to the Candidature Commission for consideration.

There is no campaigning as we know it in Australia or the US. Candidates do not raise money nor spend money on electioneering. They do not have to be wealthy as it costs nothing to stand and be elected. Personal, offensive, defamatory or denigrating attacks are prohibited. Candidates cannot campaign for themselves or others for them as happens in the US and Australia.

Mud-slinging and popularist millionaire-backed roadshows of Bush’s "true democracy", and the external interference by the CIA and other US agencies in the political and election process such as witnessed in South American countries, are in Cuba replaced by sober discussions of the candidates’ suitability. This evaluation is held in the very communities and organisations that the candidates come from right through to the Candidature Commission. Notices are placed in public places — one A-4 sheet for each candidate with a small photo, their name, what position they are standing for, their curriculum vitae and which mass organisations (eg trade union, women’s, student, CDR, farmers, combatants) have endorsed their candidature.

Candidates are invited to workplaces and other venues to talk to people and answer questions.

Once elected they have a responsibility to regularly report to and be active within their constituencies, explain assembly decisions, and work towards having them carried out. Elected representatives are fully accountable to the people and they can be revoked and substituted by the people who elected them if their work is not satisfactory.

Ministers are obliged to consult regularly with the various relevant mass organisations in which the great majority of the population are members. Although it is not written in law, representatives of the main mass organisations take part in the Council of State. The ties between government and mass organisations are strong, transparent and open. There is consultation with the people on significant legislation.

At the first session on February 24, the new National Assembly elected 31 of its members to form the Council of State — the Assembly’s permanent organ which acts between national assembly meetings — and a Council of Ministers. The deputies also elect from their own ranks a president, vice president, and secretary of Parliament. For the Council of State they elect a president, first vice president, five vice presidents, and secretary in secret ballots (after a consultation process among deputies by the National Candidature Commission).

Newly elected President Raul Castro has gone through the same process of nomination as all the other members of the National Assembly — being nominated at a meeting of the people right through to being elected as a deputy on January 20.

The National Assembly elects the country’s President, Commander-in-Chief, Ministers and other leading figures. It also elects a 31-member Council of State who takes responsibility for decision-making between National Assembly meetings.

Those elected to the different assemblies do not receive a wage for their work as a people’s representative. They continue in their usual job, and take on additional responsibilities associated with their position on a voluntary basis.

The socialist nature of the economy does not render itself to massive corruption where bought politicians push through legislation and have their pockets lined in return.

The democratic processes which involve the participation of the people and their mass organisations take policy development back to the very base of society — its people — and work through their mass organisations. They do not present the sort of opportunities for large-scale corruption that we are witnessing in NSW now, for example. Of course, that is not to say that corruption has been wiped out. Thanks to the economic blockade, Cuba is poor and it will take years before temptation and the petty acts of corruption can be eliminated.

One party serving people’s interests

So where does the Communist Party of Cuba fit into this? It does not stand or nominate candidates. Members and non-members can be elected.

Article 5 of the Constitution of the Republic grants the Communist Party of Cuba the character of "the highest leading force of society and of the state, which organises and guides the common effort toward the goals of the construction of socialism and the progress toward a communist society."

The Communist Party of Cuba is based on Marxism-Leninism and draws on the ideas and experiences of previous revolutionaries and independence fighters such as Jose Marti, Bolivar, Mella, Baliño and Che and develops its own strategies on the basis of conditions in Cuba and the reality of the international situation.

Silvia Martínez Puentes writes in Cuba Beyond Our Dreams*, "But the Government of Cuba is not the Communist Party; the latter is a guiding force, [guiding] the direction of society. It exerts political direction, not administrative, through a system of social organisations: student, workers, youth, campesinos, combatants, women, children, elderly, who contribute to its function to assure a more dynamic and conscious participation of all society in the decisions of the country. All have something to say and to suggest."

The Party acts through its members, who have a responsibility to defend and explain its policies. As the above quote points out, these policies are developed in consultation with the people and their hundreds of mass organisations. The Party’s influence has to be won through persuasion, through reason and argument. The Party cannot by law impose any decisions on society. The National Assembly is not subordinate to any other institution in Cuba. The Party may recommend policies but it is the members of the National, provincial and municipal assemblies who make the decisions.

The Party is very much part of the fabric of the people’s lives. Nominations to join the Party come from the people from within that person’s radius of action, not from within the Party itself. To be nominated, a person must have a proven record of strong revolutionary activity, demonstrate exemplary behaviour as well as have the support of the people in the community and mass organisations where they work and are active.

Policies adopted by the Communist Party’s Congress are first widely distributed and discussed amongst the people and then finalised and voted on at Congress.

The Cuban electoral system and government is based on the will of the majority of the people. The elected representatives at all three levels of government are chosen by the people, they are accountable to the people and represent the interests of the Cuban people and the socialist state. They are not handpicked or bankrolled by a small minority or beholden to any benefactors whose interests they are bound to serve.

Cuban democracy is not limited to the ballot box. As Silvia Martínez Puentes notes: "It goes much farther including participation in the decisions of the life of the country, in the equality of rights of all without distinction or discrimination of any form in economic, political and social activities, rights assured by the Constitution of the Republic in all its parts.

"The essence of the Cuban democratic system is the social transformation promoted by the Revolution since January, 1959, and even today with the battle of ideas and the social programs that are far reaching. The Revolution gave the Cuban citizen one of the essential elements, to use the right to vote with conscience: it taught the Cuban people to read and write; promoted sources of employment, improved conditions of life, created a system of organisations in the block, the neighbourhood where the individual lives that has made reality the principle that all can participate equally in the government of society.

"And it is really the people, all its citizens, who are the protagonists of this process of transformation."

The Battle of Ideas and this transformation will be the subject of a future article.

Some definitions: Free and Fair Elections

Free — any eligible voter can stand — if they want to be elected they need to pass the unwritten eligibility test of billionaire backers.

Fair — one person one vote — but if you want the public to know you are standing, you need corporate backers and corporate media support. The Democrats and Republicans spent more than $US1 billion on their campaigns in 2004, the figure in 2008 will be higher.

Transparent — another six parties are likely to stand candidates and 13 independents also run for US president — how many Americans could name any of them apart from Ralph Nader?

Multi-party — in reality a two-party system, Democrats and Republicans beholden to the same corporate sponsors, sharing a common ideology, committed to US global domination, supportive of military solutions, neoliberal policies including deregulation, privatisation, corporate welfare, tax cuts, and free trade agreements.

Democratic — election of candidates in Australia — some were handpicked by Labor’s parliamentary leader Kevin Rudd, in some instances throwing out sitting members.

*Silvia Martínez Puentes’, Cuba Beyond Our Dreams

is available from SPA Books, 74 Buckingham St, Surry Hills, NSW 2010,

or phone 02 9181 4746, $20 solidarity price plus $8 p&p.

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Given the strange voting rituals in the US I thought I would post this interesting article about voting in Cuba. Just as a comparison.

http://www.cpa.org.au/garchve08/1355cuba.html

When Cuba’s President and Commander- in-Chief Fidel Castro announced that he was stepping down, the accolades flowed in from around the world. But not from US President George W Bush, who called for "a period of democratic transition". Cuba must hold "free and fair" elections to pick a successor after half a century of communist rule, Bush said. "And I mean free and I mean fair", he added, "not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as true democracy". So, what is the electoral system that the Empire (as they call the US in Cuba) so desperately wants to rescue the Cuban people from?

People’s nominations

In Cuba there are three levels of government: municipal, provincial and national. Municipal representatives are elected for two and a half years and the provincial and national deputies for five-year terms.

The Electoral Commission organises meetings of voters in each electoral district. Depending on the size of the electorate there might, for example, be five or six such meetings in a municipal constituency. At these meetings it is the people who propose candidates for each level of government.

They must provide information on the person they are nominating, their experience, qualities, why they think that person would make a good representative. It is open to the meeting to discuss the merits of that person and also to raise any criticisms. Because of the local nature of the meetings, possible candidates are nominated and considered by those who know them. Those nominated may accept or decline giving reasons.

Before a name can go forward, a majority of the meeting must endorse that nomination. In the case of municipal elections (held October 2007) more than one name may be submitted from any meeting for the ballot paper. There is a requirement for a minimum of two candidates and maximum of eight for a seat. Nominations come in from all of the meetings.

Proposals for candidates for the 614-member National Assembly of People’s Power and 1,201 delegates to Provincial Assemblies are voted on at the meetings and the names go forward from each meeting. Municipal and Provincial assemblies may also nominate candidates from their ranks for the next higher assembly. Up to half of the National Assembly deputies may be municipal or provincial delegates.

Las Comisiones de Candidaturas (Candidature Commissions) have the responsibility of going through the nominations and selecting final candidates on the basis of merit and gaining a balanced assembly with broad representation across all ages, education levels, occupations?(including students and pensioners), genders, ethnicities, etc. The Commissions include representatives of the main mass organisations such as Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDRs), trade unions, farmers, Women’s Federation, combatants, higher education and middle level students.

In the most recent National Assembly elections more than 28% are farmers and workers in the production, service, education and health sectors. There is a higher presence of women at 43.16%; 35.67% are black or of mixed-race; the average age is 49 and 99.02% are educated to technical/vocational or university level. More than 56% of the newly-elected deputies were born after the triumph of the Revolution and the rate of renewal is 63.22% (385 deputies).

As in the US and Australia it is a one-person one-vote system and the ballot is secret. Voting is not compulsory. The voting age is 16, as is the minimum age for election to the municipal councils and provincial assemblies of people’s power. For the National Assembly the minimum age is 18.

On the ballot paper there is one candidate for each seat in the National and Provincial assemblies, based on the Candidature Commissions deliberations. It is possible to vote for the list, or consider each candidate one by one and to reject individual candidates. A candidate must receive a majority of votes to be elected. All voters vote on the total National Assembly, not just their seat, as happens in Australia.

When Fidel Castro called for a "Voto Unido", he was calling for a "united vote" for all candidates. In the National Assembly elections on January 20, 96.89 % of registered eligible voters turned out (8.23 million out of 8.5 m) and 95.24% were valid votes (the remainder blank or spoiled). Ninety-one per cent of the valid votes responded to the appeal for a "united vote" and the remainder chose to exercise their right to vote selectively.

Every single member of the National Assembly has had to be nominated at a public meeting, to have been endorsed by that meeting and gone to the Candidature Commission for consideration.

There is no campaigning as we know it in Australia or the US. Candidates do not raise money nor spend money on electioneering. They do not have to be wealthy as it costs nothing to stand and be elected. Personal, offensive, defamatory or denigrating attacks are prohibited. Candidates cannot campaign for themselves or others for them as happens in the US and Australia.

Mud-slinging and popularist millionaire-backed roadshows of Bush’s "true democracy", and the external interference by the CIA and other US agencies in the political and election process such as witnessed in South American countries, are in Cuba replaced by sober discussions of the candidates’ suitability. This evaluation is held in the very communities and organisations that the candidates come from right through to the Candidature Commission. Notices are placed in public places — one A-4 sheet for each candidate with a small photo, their name, what position they are standing for, their curriculum vitae and which mass organisations (eg trade union, women’s, student, CDR, farmers, combatants) have endorsed their candidature.

Candidates are invited to workplaces and other venues to talk to people and answer questions.

Once elected they have a responsibility to regularly report to and be active within their constituencies, explain assembly decisions, and work towards having them carried out. Elected representatives are fully accountable to the people and they can be revoked and substituted by the people who elected them if their work is not satisfactory.

Ministers are obliged to consult regularly with the various relevant mass organisations in which the great majority of the population are members. Although it is not written in law, representatives of the main mass organisations take part in the Council of State. The ties between government and mass organisations are strong, transparent and open. There is consultation with the people on significant legislation.

At the first session on February 24, the new National Assembly elected 31 of its members to form the Council of State — the Assembly’s permanent organ which acts between national assembly meetings — and a Council of Ministers. The deputies also elect from their own ranks a president, vice president, and secretary of Parliament. For the Council of State they elect a president, first vice president, five vice presidents, and secretary in secret ballots (after a consultation process among deputies by the National Candidature Commission).

Newly elected President Raul Castro has gone through the same process of nomination as all the other members of the National Assembly — being nominated at a meeting of the people right through to being elected as a deputy on January 20.

The National Assembly elects the country’s President, Commander-in-Chief, Ministers and other leading figures. It also elects a 31-member Council of State who takes responsibility for decision-making between National Assembly meetings.

Those elected to the different assemblies do not receive a wage for their work as a people’s representative. They continue in their usual job, and take on additional responsibilities associated with their position on a voluntary basis.

The socialist nature of the economy does not render itself to massive corruption where bought politicians push through legislation and have their pockets lined in return.

The democratic processes which involve the participation of the people and their mass organisations take policy development back to the very base of society — its people — and work through their mass organisations. They do not present the sort of opportunities for large-scale corruption that we are witnessing in NSW now, for example. Of course, that is not to say that corruption has been wiped out. Thanks to the economic blockade, Cuba is poor and it will take years before temptation and the petty acts of corruption can be eliminated.

One party serving people’s interests

So where does the Communist Party of Cuba fit into this? It does not stand or nominate candidates. Members and non-members can be elected.

Article 5 of the Constitution of the Republic grants the Communist Party of Cuba the character of "the highest leading force of society and of the state, which organises and guides the common effort toward the goals of the construction of socialism and the progress toward a communist society."

The Communist Party of Cuba is based on Marxism-Leninism and draws on the ideas and experiences of previous revolutionaries and independence fighters such as Jose Marti, Bolivar, Mella, Baliño and Che and develops its own strategies on the basis of conditions in Cuba and the reality of the international situation.

Silvia Martínez Puentes writes in Cuba Beyond Our Dreams*, "But the Government of Cuba is not the Communist Party; the latter is a guiding force, [guiding] the direction of society. It exerts political direction, not administrative, through a system of social organisations: student, workers, youth, campesinos, combatants, women, children, elderly, who contribute to its function to assure a more dynamic and conscious participation of all society in the decisions of the country. All have something to say and to suggest."

The Party acts through its members, who have a responsibility to defend and explain its policies. As the above quote points out, these policies are developed in consultation with the people and their hundreds of mass organisations. The Party’s influence has to be won through persuasion, through reason and argument. The Party cannot by law impose any decisions on society. The National Assembly is not subordinate to any other institution in Cuba. The Party may recommend policies but it is the members of the National, provincial and municipal assemblies who make the decisions.

The Party is very much part of the fabric of the people’s lives. Nominations to join the Party come from the people from within that person’s radius of action, not from within the Party itself. To be nominated, a person must have a proven record of strong revolutionary activity, demonstrate exemplary behaviour as well as have the support of the people in the community and mass organisations where they work and are active.

Policies adopted by the Communist Party’s Congress are first widely distributed and discussed amongst the people and then finalised and voted on at Congress.

The Cuban electoral system and government is based on the will of the majority of the people. The elected representatives at all three levels of government are chosen by the people, they are accountable to the people and represent the interests of the Cuban people and the socialist state. They are not handpicked or bankrolled by a small minority or beholden to any benefactors whose interests they are bound to serve.

Cuban democracy is not limited to the ballot box. As Silvia Martínez Puentes notes: "It goes much farther including participation in the decisions of the life of the country, in the equality of rights of all without distinction or discrimination of any form in economic, political and social activities, rights assured by the Constitution of the Republic in all its parts.

"The essence of the Cuban democratic system is the social transformation promoted by the Revolution since January, 1959, and even today with the battle of ideas and the social programs that are far reaching. The Revolution gave the Cuban citizen one of the essential elements, to use the right to vote with conscience: it taught the Cuban people to read and write; promoted sources of employment, improved conditions of life, created a system of organisations in the block, the neighbourhood where the individual lives that has made reality the principle that all can participate equally in the government of society.

"And it is really the people, all its citizens, who are the protagonists of this process of transformation."

The Battle of Ideas and this transformation will be the subject of a future article.

Some definitions: Free and Fair Elections

Free — any eligible voter can stand — if they want to be elected they need to pass the unwritten eligibility test of billionaire backers.

Fair — one person one vote — but if you want the public to know you are standing, you need corporate backers and corporate media support. The Democrats and Republicans spent more than $US1 billion on their campaigns in 2004, the figure in 2008 will be higher.

Transparent — another six parties are likely to stand candidates and 13 independents also run for US president — how many Americans could name any of them apart from Ralph Nader?

Multi-party — in reality a two-party system, Democrats and Republicans beholden to the same corporate sponsors, sharing a common ideology, committed to US global domination, supportive of military solutions, neoliberal policies including deregulation, privatisation, corporate welfare, tax cuts, and free trade agreements.

Democratic — election of candidates in Australia — some were handpicked by Labor’s parliamentary leader Kevin Rudd, in some instances throwing out sitting members.

*Silvia Martínez Puentes’, Cuba Beyond Our Dreams

is available from SPA Books, 74 Buckingham St, Surry Hills, NSW 2010,

or phone 02 9181 4746, $20 solidarity price plus $8 p&p.

When I was in Cuba and China government officials made the same points in this article. It is true that in both countries the people have much more say in the selection of candidates than we do in the West. For example, in the UK, most seats rarely change hands. Therefore, the important people in the election process who select the candidate in the Labour or Conservative stronghold.

However, it is impossible to hold office in China or Cuba unless you are an approved member of the Communist Party. Therefore, given the choice between these two flawed systems, I would rather live in a capitalist rather than a communist “democracy”.

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