Sun | Jun 16, 2024

Eyes on abstention as Cubans vote for National Assembly

Published:Monday | March 27, 2023 | 10:19 AM
A man wearing a shirt with an image of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara prepares to vote at a polling station in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, March 26, 2023. Cubans vote for the deputies that will make up the People's Power National Assembly, a unicameral parliament. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

HAVANA (AP) — Cubans voted Sunday in National Assembly elections with attention focused on voter turnout amid a deep economic and migratory crisis.

With 470 candidates running for the legislature's 470 seats, and no opposition challengers, the election's outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Voters essentially will do no more than endorse a slate of candidates vetted by Communist Party officials, critics say.

What observers will be watching Sunday is whether a trend in declining voter participation continues as Cuba's government struggles to turn around deteriorating economic conditions.

Participation in elections in Cuba is high but has been on the decline for a decade.

The National Electoral Commission said that for last November's municipal elections about 31% of eligible voters abstained from voting, That translates to 69% participation, which is still high by international standards, but a substantial decline for Cuba where voting is not compulsory but traditionally was considered a national duty.

The rate of abstention for national elections was 14% in 2018, and only 6% in 2013.

Michael Shifter, a senior fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think tank, said the trend toward non-participation in Cuban elections reflects growing discontent with the deteriorating economy and the migration crisis.

“There may be different reasons that explain the increase in abstention, but an important factor is undoubtedly the growing distaste for the government's poor performance,” he said.

Cuba's government says the system is inclusive and builds unity, while steering clear of the divisiveness of party politics or any ill effects of big-money donors.

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