Polls have opened throughout Cuba in elections for the Nationwide Meeting, the island nation’s highest legislative physique.
Polling stations opened their doorways at 7am native time (11:00 GMT) on Sunday, and greater than eight million persons are eligible to vote.
There are 470 candidates operating for 470 seats, with no opposition challengers and no campaigning. Many of the candidates for the Cuban parliament are members of the Communist Get together, the one authorized occasion on the island.
Historic figures of the revolution, reminiscent of former President Raul Castro, 91, are among the many candidates.
Polls are scheduled to shut at 6pm (22:00 GMT). Some 175,600 college students are in control of guarding the poll bins.
The lawmakers might be in control of nominating a presidential candidate, who might be elected in a vote amongst themselves. Miguel Diaz-Canel, chief of the Communist Get together of Cuba (PCC), is predicted to win a second time period.
The vote comes at a time when Cuba is dealing with its worst financial disaster in a long time, with shortages of meals, an unprecedented wave of migration, galloping inflation, and crippling US sanctions.
Non-voters have been a defining trait in current elections, which, consultants say, might undermine the legitimacy of Cuba’s subsequent authorities. Turnout for municipal elections final November fell under 70 % for the primary time. The opposition has advocated abstention as an indication of rejection of the electoral system.
Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo, reporting from Havana, mentioned nearly all of the inhabitants was struggling amid hovering inflation and recurring blackouts.
“The federal government tolerates no dissent and that’s why all eyes are going to be on the abstention fee as a result of it’s the one means folks have to precise their discontent,” she mentioned.
Omar Everleny, an economist, instructed Al Jazeera that the federal government ought to work to remodel the state-dominated economic system.
“The nation wants a market. That doesn’t have to be a market economic system however Cuban socialism. The examples are Vietnam and China. We have to have an instance of a one-party system that has managed to outlive.”
Brian Nichols, the US undersecretary of state for Western hemisphere affairs, on Friday criticised the elections in Cuba, saying that the Cuban folks “deserve to decide on” their representatives with freedom.
“On Sunday, Cubans will as soon as once more be denied an actual election for his or her Nationwide Meeting,” mentioned Nichols on Twitter. “When the one choice is the Communist Get together and closed committees select candidates to run with out opposition, there isn’t a democracy, solely autocracy and distress. Cubans deserve to decide on,” he mentioned.
Following Nichols’s criticism, Diaz-Canel lashed out towards the US on the Ibero-American Summit within the Dominican Republic. The president condemned the US commerce embargo on Cuba and Washington’s choice to maintain the island on a listing of nations sponsoring “terrorism”.
“The US authorities is set to destabilise our nation and destroy the Cuban revolution,” he mentioned on Saturday.
Hundreds of protesters had voiced considerations over meals provides and the dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic by the authorities.
Some have since chosen to to migrate, whereas others say they have been pressured into exile. Those that stay say that the federal government’s response has had a chilling impact on dissent.
After US-backed chief Fulgencio Batista was toppled in 1959, Cuba turned a one-party-state led by Fidel Castro and his successors. Since then, the PCC has defied expectations by surviving a long time of financial isolation and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a key ally.