News and Facts about Cuba

By a Secret and Direct Ballot

By a Secret and Direct Ballot / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on March 8, 2015

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Panama, 7 March 2015 — A few years ago I asked
a friend why he had voted for a candidate he barely knew during the
election of delegates to the municipal assemblies. His response at the
time was simple and full of wisdom. “I don’t want to get into trouble,
it’s not that the ballots are marked,” he warned me slyly. With my face
showing how embarrassed I was for him, he immediately declared, “Fine,
in the end, voting or not voting, it isn’t going to change anything.”

My friend’s comments highlighted two of the most serious limitations of
the current mechanisms for electing the people’s representatives. On the
one hand, the little confidence that Cuban voters have in the secrecy of
the process, and on the other hand, the inability of the candidates
elected to influence the direction of the nation. Two of the aspects
most mentioned in a forum about the electoral system just held on the
digital site of the government newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth).

The discussion occurred during the days when a citation was put under my
door to participate in the elections for the Municipal Assemblies of
People’s Power. A piece of gray paper, which most of my neighbors
received with the reluctance of a formality that doesn’t influence nor
relieve the serious problems they face every day. Many of them will go
to vote like automatons, just like during past elections, and with the
same lack of faith in the process.

Not even the discreet announcement – of just a few weeks ago – of a new
Electoral Law in Cuba, managed to put to rest these suspicions they
harbor. A situation made clear in the discussion promoted by the
official media, where among the demands most repeated by the readers was
the right to a direct and secret ballot to elect the highest offices in
the country.

It is true that the questions the People’s Power has heard for decades
in their own district assemblies are the fodder of comedians and even
critics in the official media, but so far there has been a line no one
dares to cross, that of questioning the method by which those occupying
the highest positions in the nation are chosen. Discussing something
like this immediately places the dissatisfied voter on the side of the
enemy, of the opposition, and of the “puppets of the empire.”

In ‘Juventud Rebelde’ discussion, readers asked about the right to a
direct and secret ballot to elect the highest offices in the country

It is a relief to know one can inquire – at least on the
about the mechanisms to decide who will sit in the presidential chair,
although it only serves to receive an answer as poor as that given by
the National Electoral Commission (CEN), which avoided the controversy
by stating that, “at the appropriate time it will be addressed as a part
of the legislative policy of the country.”

There was another twist of the knife when a different participant in the
virtual forum inquired about the existence of “a mechanism to measure
the performance of the positions of and First Vice
of the Council of State and Ministers, and if the National Assembly has
the power to remove them from office.” In response, the CEN demonstrated
its scarce power of decision, “We regret we are unable to respond to
your request, as it is not our responsibility,” it confessed.

Among the notable absences in the discussion, however, was the ban on
candidates putting forth a program, which means the voters mark their
ballots based on a biography, rather than on the proposals of their
future representative. When will we know if this graduate,
good father and better professional is also someone who shares our ideas
about economic decisions, gay marriage or foreign policy? To vote for a
photo and a list of merits – as inflated as they are impossible to prove
– only prolongs the Government of the incapable and docile.

Nevertheless, the Juventud Rebelde forum has opened a crack that hints
at a ballot that is independent and with guarantees – improbable for now
– for our electoral system, raising broad and devastatingly deep
criticisms of the ruling regime. The daring with which several
commentators expressed themselves in the official organ of the Communist
youth suggests that, when these opinions can be expressed without
reprisals, they will become a veritable waterfall of dissatisfied voices.

Source: By a Secret and Direct Ballot / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez |
Translating Cuba –

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