Cuba’s upcoming elections are neither free nor fair

This Sunday, 21 October 2007, Cuba will begin municipal elections for the first time since Fidel Castro handed over the power to his brother Raúl in 2006. These elections are a first step towards the elections for the National Assembly that will be held in the spring of 2008. Delegates elected at the municipal level play a direct role in determining who the candidates will be for the national elections next year. However, these elections should not be considered free or fair by any democratic standard.

People in Need, a Czech human rights and development NGO, calls upon the media and policy makers not to confuse the elections in Cuba with what are commonly called elections in democratic countries. Cuba continues to be governed by a single party regime which imprisons internal opposition and severely limits freedoms that are considered sacred in all other democratic countries. There are basic ways in which the Cuban people are not able to participate in these elections by their own free will and which the selections of candidates are limited and unfair.

An enclosed legal and political analysis of the elections by Rene Gomez Manzano, a prominent Cuban lawyer, argues that the municipal and parliamentary elections are not free or fair because:

During the municipal elections, Cubans:
– cannot vote in secret ballots, candidates are chosen in public meetings
– cannot control the counting of ballots at all the levels of electoral committees

During the Parliamentary elections, Cubans:
– have almost no real choice in who can be considered a candidate since they have no right to propose independent candidates on a national level
– the number of candidates is equal to the number of people who are to be elected
– candidates are chosen by six specific organizations under the direct control of the communist party
– not affiliated with one of these six organizations have no means of participating in the selection process.
– voters can be over-represented by serving on one or several of the organizations
– voters can only select the approved candidates for the ballots to be considered valid
– ballots with no candidate selected or with write-in or other suggestions are invalid

Various members of the opposition have criticized the electoral system. Owaldo Paya Sardinas, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, called upon the government to change the law and allow real free and fair elections. “In this moment in our history, Cuba needs transparency and confidence and that only can be achieved by respecting the ideas and rights of everyone, not imposing an electoral process … that for years has impeded the people from freely expressing and deciding for itself,” he wrote. Martha Beatriz Roque, an economist and former political prisoner, said that the elections are not secret, because candidates are selected only in public reunions. “Imagine what support an opposition candidate can get in a public meeting in front of all these people from the government’s apparatus. He will immediately has to think about his sons and family, in fact that they can all loose a job or that he can even become a prisoner,” she wrote.
We ask the media and policy makers not to follow the Cuban regimes propaganda and to learn more about the real working of this process. To that end you can find bellow the two analysis by Rene Gomez Manzano.

For more information you can directly contact following people in Cuba:
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, leader of the Christian Movement Liberation (Movimiento Cristiano Liberación – MCL) and author of the Varela Project, which calls for a referendum on civil liberties. In 2002, the Sakharov Prize was presented to Payá by the European Parliament, and he has been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace several times. Phone: +537 41 01 49 or +537 40 48 56.
Martha Beatriz Roque, economist, and one of the two women arrested during the crackdown in March 2003. Roque joined the opposition in the end of 1990 and, in 1994, founded the Cuban Institute of Independent Economists (Instituto Cubano de Economistas Independientes). She was condemned to three years in prison in 1997. In 2002, Martha Beatriz founded the Asamblea para Promover la Sociedad Civil, a coalition of more than 300 democratic organizations on the island. Phone: +537 94 68 21
Oscar Espinosa Chepe, one of the 14 journalists set free, for health reasons, from the so- called Group of 75, formed by the dissidents imprisoned in March 2003. Since his liberation, Espinosa has become one of the main sources of information for those who want to know more about the situation in Cuba. He continues to send his articles and analyses abroad. His wife, Miriam Leiva, is a well known member of the Cuban opposition, as well. Phone: +537 209 4645
Laura Poyán, wife of independent journalist Carlos Maseda, arrested in March 2003 and condemned to twenty years in prison. Poyán is a founding member of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) movement, which received the Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament in 2005. Phone: 537 873 4165

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