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Electoral abstention on the rise in the elections to the Cuban National Assembly

The Cuban government reports abstention in National Assembly elections was just over 24%, a figure some analysts say reflects discontent with the island’s economic crisis as well as a rise in apathy

HAVANA — The Cuban government announced on Monday that abstention in the National Assembly elections stood at 24.1%, a figure some analysts say reflects dissatisfaction with the island’s economic crisis as well as a rise in apathy. .

While a 75.9% turnout in Sunday’s vote is high compared to other countries, it is about nine percentage points lower than Cuba’s National Assembly election turnout. in 2018 and well below the 94.2% turnout recorded in 2013.

As there was only one candidate running for each of the 470 legislative seats, turnout was viewed by observers as a political thermometer.

“It is obvious that the government is dealing with less unconditional support from its bases,” said Arturo López-Levy, a professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid.

Cuba’s economy has been hit hard by the pandemic and increased US sanctions, and the island nation has seen an increase in migration as well as blackouts and fuel shortages. The communist-ruled nation was rocked by rare protests in July 2021 and October 2022.

Michael Shifter, an analyst at the Washington-based think tank Inter-American Dialogue, said the 24% abstention is high in historical terms since the overall non-participation average is 10%.

Shifter described abstention in Cuba as a complex phenomenon that may reflect dissatisfaction with the government’s “poor performance” and “apathy or disinterest”.

Turnout figures for Sunday’s legislative vote were announced by Alina Balseiro, president of the National Electoral Council. She said that of 8.1 million people registered to vote, 6.1 million voted. Some 6.2% of the ballots were blank and 3.5% spoiled.

While critics argue that voters in Cuba’s legislative elections do nothing more than endorse a list of candidates selected by Communist Party officials, Cuban officials say the system is inclusive and builds unity, while avoiding divisive party politics or any adverse effects of big-money givers.

Voting in Cuba is not compulsory but was traditionally considered a national duty.

National Assembly elections are held every five years and are technically non-partisan. But they fall under the indirect control of the Communist Party.

Half of the 470 candidates came from municipal assemblies chosen in local elections last November. The other half were nominated by groups representing broad sections of society, such as a women’s group and labor unions. All were vetted by election committees with party ties.

The National Assembly is theoretically the highest governmental power in the country. It approves the laws and elects among its members the president and the executive officers.

The new National Assembly is expected to meet on April 19.


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