CUBA will never waver in the face of external pressure or forces of nature, says First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel upon casting his vote today.
Meanwhile, foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez said Cuba’s electoral process had attracted the interest of the international community given the current national and regional context.
But he was quick to say he wished the US had an electoral process like in Cuba where the processes were not driven by money and corporate interests.
The voting for delegates to Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power, in 12,515 circumscriptions nationwide, has put Cuba on a marathon electoral process that will culminate into the election of the Councils of State and Ministers on February 24, 2018.
Since President Raul Castro has over the years insisted he would not run for president after serving two five-year terms in office, these polls could see the change of leadership on the island from the historic revolutionary generation to those born after that.
Vice-President Diaz-Canel, who is seen as next president, said the first stage of the electoral process represented the foundation of Cuba’s system of governance.
“We have arrived at this point and once again shown the mobilizing capacity of the Revolution,” he said. “These elections send a message to the world of unity around the revolutionary process, a message that Cuba will not waver in the face of external pressure or the forces of nature. Today is also tribute to Fidel, an expression of our commitment to him, to the Revolution and to Raúl [President Castro].”
Vice-President Diaz-Canel said the process was going on smoothly thus far despite the impact of Hurricane Irma which battered almost 90 per cent of the island.
He said the candidates for Municipal Assemblies were individuals with strong values from local communities, and nominated directly by the people on the basis of their merits, abilities and commitment to the people.
Neighbours paid tribute to Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz at the polling station where he used to vote from; recalling anecdotes and memories of the revolutionary leader.
The space also featured an exposition of photos of the historic leader of the Cuban revolution participating in elections.
Meanwhile, Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez said the day was special.
Upon casting his vote, Rodriguez, who is also politburo member, said despite the US tightening the blockade against Cuba, the legitimacy of the Cuban electoral system was being demonstrated.
“The elections have coincided with the first anniversary of the death of the Comandante [Fidel Castro], commemorated in a simple, moving and deep way by our people. His legacy is also present in these elections, it’s a tribute to the ideas he defended throughout his life,” said Rodriguez, who voted from polling station number 2 in Havana’s Playa municipality. “Cuba’s electoral process has attracted the interest of the international community, given the current national and regional context, and it is an honour for the Cuban people to be exercising their right to vote amidst such a turbulent global situation, when it is increasingly difficult for citizens to freely express their will in processes driven by money and corporate interests. I wish that the North American people could have an electoral process like ours and come to our country to form their own opinion about Cuba’s system of democracy.”
Federation of Cuban Women secretary general and politburo member Teresa Amarelle Boue highlighted the commitment of Cuban women to the electoral process. She said of the 27,221 candidates, 9,637 were women representing 35.40 per cent.
She said the elections represented a tribute to Fidel on the first anniversary of his death which fell on Saturday, November 25.
Over eight million Cubans were expected to come to vote for 12,515 delegates to Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power.
In Cuba, citizens can vote once they reach 16 years of age provided that they have lived in the country for at least two years before elections, and are legally permitted to do so.
The process to nominate candidates for municipal delegates took place from September 4 through October 30, 2017 with the participation of 6,746,867 voters or 78.35 per cent of the electorate.
Cuban television provided special coverage of elections from across the country.
National Electoral Commission (CEN) president Alina Balseiro said polling stations opened at 07.00 hours local time and elections had proceeded without problems.