Elections for the renewal of the Cuban Parliament held on Sunday on the island were not surprising in terms of candidates, but registered the highest abstention in a legislature since the triumph of the revolution in 1959. The 470 candidates for deputies proposed by an official election by the electoral commission were elected without difficulty, including former president Raúl Castro, 91, and the current president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, 62, who can run for a second term on April 19, when the National Assembly is constituted, which must elect a new government . However, abstention, once again, was the protagonist of these elections: one in four Cubans summoned to the polls did not go to the polls, an upward trend that analysts interpret as a vote of punishment when the country is experiencing one of the worst crises of your story.

More than 8,100,000 Cubans entitled to vote were called for these elections: 75.92% of voters participated, ten points less than in the 2018 elections to renew the National Assembly, when 85.65% of voters cast their ballots. However, it is a small relief for the authorities, since in last year’s municipal elections abstention reached 31.5%, a record number in a country accustomed to unanimity during the lifetime of Fidel Castro, when turnout rates almost always exceeded 95%.

In the 2015 elections, with Raúl Castro as president, turnout was 89%, but in the municipal elections held in November 2017, abstention rose by 14%. In the referendum held in September 2022 to approve a new family code, 25% of Cubans with a right to vote did not go to the polls (and of the valid votes, 32% were against the position defended by the government).

growing detachment

In any country in the world, these results would be viewed as a government victory, but in Cuba, where there is only the Communist Party and it is so difficult to measure the social and political temperature, the growing distance that this trend reflects is something to be aware of. and difficult to read.

A child looks down the street from one of Havana’s polling centers on Sunday.ALEXANDRE MENEGHINI (REUTERS)

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It has long been clear that the days of continuous unanimity and massive votes in support of the government are over in Cuba. And, also, that the social unrest caused by economic difficulties and the lack of hope for the future has grown exponentially in recent years. To this we must add that the number of Cubans, mostly young people, who have left their country in the last year and a half is overwhelming. It is estimated that over 320,000 people entered the United States illegally across the Mexican border during this period, in addition to the tens of thousands who emigrated to other countries and the thousands who tried to cross the Strait of Florida in fragile boats, most of which were intercepted by US Coast Guard ships and deported to the island.

The Government feared that the abstention rate – which the weak opposition forces had called for – would be higher in these elections than in the municipal elections of November last year (31.5%). For this reason, the authorities saw it almost as a triumph that participation exceeded 75%, and they hastened to qualify the results as “a yes to Cuba, to the revolution and to socialism” and considered it a “success”.

“This Sunday was a day of celebration, of joy, of confirmation, of convictions. And once again we had a revolutionary victory, a victory for our people,” the Cuban president, who had just arrived from the Ibero-American presidential summit in the Dominican Republic, said on Twitter. We said it yesterday: we trust our people, who came out to defend the Revolution.

There was no doubt that the 470 candidates for deputy proposed by the electoral commission would be elected to occupy the same number of seats. To be elected, it was enough that they obtained 50% of the valid votes, and so it was. The electoral system is designed in such a way that it is practically impossible for the proposed candidates to be rejected, since for that to happen, more than half of the voters would have to vote against them.

Of the 6,164. Of the 876 Cubans who exercised their right to vote in Sunday’s elections, 6.22% voted blank and 3.5% of the ballots were voided. In other words, among abstentions, null votes and blank votes, one in three Cubans did not follow the official slogan, a percentage that, given the unique Cuban situation, is not negligible and which, say analysts, including some close to the theses officer, the Government must take this into account in any future policy equation.

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