This Is What Passes for Elections in Cuba
On Sunday Nov. 27, 5.7 million Cuban citizens exercised their constitutional right to vote, but a substantial percentage (31.5) of registered voters decided to stay home that day. This was in sharp contrast with previous elections' voter participation rates, which have historically hovered above 90%. In the recent past, however, we have seen a trend toward higher abstention rates (14% in the 2017 municipal elections) and (25% in September's "Family Code" referendum).
Despite government and state media spin -- President Miguel Diaz-Canel applauding the official voting rates and results as signs of social and political stability -- the fact that 2.6 million Cubans chose not to vote in these municipal elections signals massive and growing popular rejection of the regime and its political leaders. Moreover, approximately 11% of the ballots (627,000) were either left blank or spoiled. That over 5 million did cast ballots should not be read as their support for the communist regime.
ANATOMY OF CUBA'S ELECTORAL SYSTEM
While the Cuban state and its supporters around the world claim, with a straight face, that Cuba is a democratic nation and a model of participatory governance, they are anything but that.
What transpired last Sunday is the first part of a Byzantine, multistage electoral process that checks a few but certainly not the majority of boxes required by the commonly accepted definitions of democratic elections:
[x] One secret ballot for each registered voter.
[ ] Multipartidism or bipartidism.
[ ] Free and fair competition among different candidates who represent diverse ideas and policies.
[ ] Absence of candidate and voter intimidation.
[ ] Open public campaigns with candidates having access to the media.