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Record Low Turnout at Cuban Elections Since 1959

1 / diciembre / 2022

Preliminary results from the election to vote in members of the Local People’s Power Assemblies were announced on Monday November 28th. The figure reflected a turnout of only 68.58% – 31.42% didn’t vote – which marks a growing trend of Cubans opting for abstentionism.

According to statements from the President of the National Electoral Council (CEN), Alina Balseiro, 5,728,220 voters exercised their right to vote, out of an electoral register of 8,300,000.

The number of voters dropped in relation to recent elections: during the popular referendum to vote on the Family Act in September (74.12%, also a record low at the time) and the Constitutional Referendum in 2019 (90.15%); as well as elections to vote in local representatives in 2017 (89%).

“Out of the total number of ballots handed in, 89.11% were valid, 5.22% were left blank and 5.67% were spoilt,” CEN announced.

Balseiro said: “the elections went smoothly, were organized, disciplined and in keeping with the Law, like our people have always done.” She also said: “[the election] demonstrates the people’s support for their representatives and their confidence in the Revolution.”

However, the number of citizens who didn’t go to the polls (2,571,780) is a record since 1959. This number may be reflecting three general phenomena: the Cuban people’s indifference to political processes, abstentionism as a political stance and a growing number of Cubans have emigrated (especially over the past year). The latter are still on the electoral register, as they continue to keep their legal residence in the country.

Meanwhile, the fact that 10.89% (588,861) of votes were invalid (void or left blank) means that many voters preferred not to choose a candidate or disqualify their ballot, to express their non-conformity, indifference or unhappiness. 

CEN didn’t explain the exclusion of over 106,000 Cubans from the electoral register, who were on the list of voters in September (8,447,467).

The voting, which was meant to end at 6 PM, was extended by an hour, due to a “request from the Electoral Council and voters themselves,” according to the Government, without going into further details.

However, Article 97.2 of the Electoral Law, which allows this time extension “in one or different districts or polling stations,” stipulates that this can be done “when force majeure advises for it.” The number of polling stations that had this time extension wasn’t announced. 

During the Family Code referendum and the 2017 elections for nieghborhood representatives, many Cuban municipalities extended the election by an hour due to bad weather; a reason that wasn’t the case this Sunday and has led many people to think that this extension could have been a desperate attempt to try and hike up final numbers.  

Different media platforms have called attention to irregularities in the election, such as preventing activists and members of the political opposition from both running for the positions or from voting. 

A feature by AP news agency reported that “the Council for a Democratic Transition in Cuba tried to present half a dozen candidates at neighborhood meetings, and one was finally nominated in one of them in Santiago de Cuba.”

Using the hashtag #YoNoVotoel27 on social media, many Internet users made an appeal to stay home and to use this election as an opportunity to show the Cuban Government the Cuban people’s growing disappointment in their administration. 

International organizations such as Electoral Transparency stressed the importance of allowing organizations to be at the vote counting to ensure transparency and credibility in the results.

“Given the fact so many journalists and activists reported a higher abstention rate than in the Family Code referendum, and numbers announced by the National Electoral Council are unanswerable because of a lack of electoral observation and cross-checks with guarantees, Electoral Transparency urged the Electoral Council to authorize an independent audit that will guarantee the results announced are reliable,” it pointed out. 

The election to vote in local representatives is the first step of an electoral process that will end in 2023 with members for the Cuban Parliament. The following steps are a second round of voting (Sunday December 4th) in the districts where candidates failed to win over 50% of valid votes. Then comes the formation of local assemblies on December 17, 2022. 

This article was translated into English from the original in Spanish.

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