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is a blog to give a fresh angle on a fascinating and beautiful Caribbean Island country that, despite being relatively small and with only 11 million people, has been a major player in American and world politics for a half century. I also suggest you try

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cuba’s Elections Draw Big Turnout

By Circles Robinson

Cubans went to the polls in droves on Sunday to elect their local authorities, a process that takes place every two and a half years.

With 95 percent of the registered voters casting their ballots, 2,971 of the 15,236 voting districts in the country’s 169 Municipalities will require a runoff vote on Sunday October 28.

Cuba’s elections were not a beauty contest and were not influenced by money, in contrast to the saturation advertising campaigns common in most countries.

Instead, the local media emphasized the fairness and justness of the process, where any citizen 16 or over can nominate or be nominated as a candidate, as well as vote.

Without a doubt, there are pros and cons to this system. However, it’s Cuba’s own model, it’s only been around since 1976, and it has room to improve.

One weakness in Cuba’s electoral process is that ideas on important local issues are not addressed. The candidates limit themselves to listing their qualifications in a short biography and expressing their willingness to be public servants for a difficult non-paying job.

Since some of them will also become candidates for the 609-member Peoples Power National Assembly (Parliament) in next spring’s general elections their views on national issues would also add interest and spark discussion.

While the high voter turnout is a good indication of how Cubans would react to any foreign intervention —in mass and without hesitation—, it doesn’t automatically mean uniformity of opinion.

In fact, Cubans have begun to put forth more outspoken opinions and suggestions on how to make the wheels of their socialist revolution turn more efficiently. There are many divergent views on the way the country’s economy is being run and of how specific laws or policies are being applied.

Important encouragement for widespread participation came in the address to the nation by acting president Raul Castro on July 26, 2007.

In that speech Raul Castro noted that there are all too obvious internal deficiencies in the Cuban productive and economic systems. These deficiencies, he asserted, cannot all be blamed on the costly effects of the nearly half century US blockade.

Given the new push for public involvement and the constructive issue-oriented discussions that have followed in workplaces and neighborhoods throughout the country, it would seem natural to extend this practice to the spring 2008 general election campaign. Such debate could bring more meaning to the process.

Not all agree, however. Bringing issues and ideas into the electoral process goes against the logic of those who fear politicking and others who maintain that publicly showing differing opinions on diverse issues would give the perennial enemy to the north dangerous new ammunition.


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