Millions of Cubans voted Sunday for parliamentary candidates in elections critics say are closed and offer no real competition, but that the government defends as grass-roots democracy. The elected unicameral legislature will convene Feb. 24 and pick a new parliament chief for the first time in two decades, with the body’s longtime leader, Ricardo Alarcon, not on the ballot. Voting began last October with municipal elections. Term limits do not exist in Cuba, but on various occasions Castro has proposed limiting public officials including the president to two consecutive periods in office. Government critics call Cuban elections perfunctory, noting that only the Communist Party is permitted on the island and only one approved candidate is on the ballot for each seat in parliament. Castro and his older brother Fidel, now retired, have headed up the government for five decades.
Among those voting in Havana on Sunday was Fidel Castro, who appears in public only occasionally now since he fell ill in 2006 and stepped aside permanently less than years later. The former Cuban leader was among 25 National Assembly candidates from the eastern city of Santiago.
Authorities say the lack of multiple parties or political campaigning keeps corruption and special-interest money out of elections, and point to high turnout as proof that it’s a participatory system.
Parliamentary candidates don’t need to belong to the Communist Party, but those who don’t generally are members of allied organizations.