Cuba’s National Assembly elected ahead of leadership change in April

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CUBA-ELECTION-DIAZ-CANEL Cuba’s First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel, casts his vote in Santa Clara, Cuba, during an election to ratify a new National Assembly, on March 11, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Alejandro Ernesto)

Cubans went to the polls on Sunday to elect a new Parliament; the National Assembly of People’s Power.

Raul Castro is one of the candidates but he plans to step down as President when the new Assembly meets for the first time next month.

As CGTN’s Michael Voss reports from Havana, Cuba is about to undergo a major generational change in its political leadership.

More than eight million Cubans are expected to vote in Sunday’s elections. There are two separate ballots, one for provincial deputies, the other for the National Assembly. Of the 605 Parliamentary seats being contested, there is only one pre-selected candidate for each seat. But there is a real sense of anticipation here.

When the new National Assembly meets on April 19, it will select a new president. Raul Castro has announced that he is stepping down. Fifty-seven-year-old First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel is expected to take over. Castro will stay on, though, as head of the Communist Party.

“I think these changes are good,” Julio Cesar Diaz said after voting. “They will help improve our system while at the same time supporting our revolution and all our achievements. These we will never renounce.” Diaz, a state-employed worker at the Sport’s Institute added.

Katiuska Ponce, a self-employed hairdresser, believes the young people need to participate in the changes. “We, as the younger generation must help and be part of the work developed since 1959 revolution till now,” she said.

The makeup of the new National Assembly will also mark a generational change. According to the official newspaper Granma, 90 percent of the candidates were born after the revolution. The average age is 49 and the majority (56%) are first-time candidates. More than 53% are women… making Cuba one of the top three countries in the world for the number of women in parliament.

Elections in Cuba are not about issues or personalities. There is no campaigning or rallies or TV spots. Instead, each candidate has a one-page biography posted in front of the polling stations.

The Cuban authorities say this creates a level playing field because you don’t depend on who has the largest financial contributions in order to win.

Whoever becomes the next president faces major challenges. Cuba’s economy is struggling, state wages are too low and it can no longer rely on aid from its crisis hit ally Venezuela. How the new government responds is something many will be watching.

Arturo Lopez Levy on Cuba’s parliamentary elections

To better understand Cuba’s parliamentary elections and an impending post-Castro era, CGTN’s Wang Guan spoke with Arturo Lopez Levy. He’s a lecturer on Latin American and U.S. politics at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He’s also the co-author of ‘Raul Castro and the New Cuba: A Close-Up View of Change.’

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