One of the most important steps leading to the February 24 referendum on Cuba’s new Constitution took place recently with the establishment of electoral commissions at the provincial, municipal, and constituency level, and for special voting sites.
In solemn ceremonies, those designated as members of these bodies signed the document establishing their creation, an oath, and code of ethics, given the responsibility they have assumed to organize, direct, and validate the vote, in which some eight million Cuban citizens are eligible to participate.
This final process is required before the new Constitution can become effective, already approved in a roll call vote by the 583 deputies present during the National Assembly of People’s Power Ninth Legislature’s Second Period of Ordinary Sessions, last December 22.
The establishment of these electoral commissions, which began January 4, was preceded by the swearing-in of 17 members of the National Electoral Commission (CEN) in charge of the referendum as dictated by the National Assembly convocation, in accordance with Law No. 72, the Electoral Law.
At the same time, across the country, progress is being made on the organization and training of those who will work the polls, and the creation of conditions to guarantee all required materials and logistics.
CEN President Alina Balseiro Gutiérrez noted that work is also underway on the communications plan, the printing of ballots, ballot boxes, and voter registries.
THE REFERNDUM’S LEGAL BASIS
Law No. 72, the Electoral Law approved by the National Assembly October 29, 1992, is the legal document that governs the Cuban Electoral System and its work.
This law’s Chapter Three establishes, among other aspects, that Electoral Commissions from the national level to the provincial, municipal, district, constituency, and special, are created to organize, direct, and validate elections and referendums, the latter being the subject of an entire section: No. 10.
WHAT IS A POPULAR REFERENDUM?
Article 162 of the aforementioned law stipulates, “By way of a referendum called by the National Assembly of People’s Power, citizens have the electoral right to state if they approve proposed Constitutional reform laws, or not,” before these may enter into effect.
Ballots are to convey the issue being addressed, in a clear, concrete fashion. In the case of the upcoming February 24 referendum, the question will be: “Do you approve the new Constitution of the Republic?” followed by two spaces labeled “Yes” and “No” as established by law.
- The National Assembly of People’s Power makes available to the population the Constitution to be submitted to a popular referendum, and sets the date for the vote.
- The Council of State names members of the National Electoral Commission (CEN).
- Provincial, municipal, district, constituency, and special electoral commissions are created.- The CEN, in coordination with the Foreign Ministry, makes arrangements to guarantee the right to vote of those who are outside the country on the day the referendum is held.- Municipal Electoral Commissions compute votes cast in the municipality and forward results to Provincial Electoral Commissions.- Provincial Electoral Commissions compute votes cast in all municipalities of the province and send results to the CEN, which performs the national calculation.- Electoral Commissions outside the country, once the count is complete, communicate results to their respective embassies, which remit these to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which communicates this information to the CEN.- Once the referendum’s final vote count has been calculated, the CEN informs the Council of State, which publishes the results and communicates the decision to the National Assembly for all pertinent purposes.THE PEOPLE’S CONSTITUTION The approval of the new Constitution was preceded by a three month process of consultation with the people, in what has been described as a genuine expression of the democratic and participatory nature of Cuba’s socialist system.The text was enriched with opinions expressed during 133,681 meetings held in neighborhoods, workplaces, secondary schools, and universities. These proposals were all evaluated and led to changes in almost 60% of the proposed articles, including those regarding the country’s political and economic foundations; rights and responsibilities; and the structure of the State, among other important issues.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION:
- Following the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, transformations were initiated directed toward achieving transparency in electoral processes, which would become increasingly participatory.- In 1976, through a national referendum, the new Constitution of the Republic and the Constitutional Transition Law were approved.- In October of 1992, the National Assembly unanimously approved a new Electoral Law, which, for the first time, established direct, secret ballot votes in provincial and national elections.- Members of the CEN are drawn from state bodies and agencies, including the armed forces.- Their responsibility is to develop norms to guide the organization, direction, and validation of the referendum process, and to ensure compliance, demanding and assuring impartiality and transparency in all election related actions.- According to the current Constitution, all Cubans over 16 years of age are entitled to vote, except those mentally incapacitated by court order, and those who are legally excluded due to a criminal conviction. Voter registration is automatic and free of charge, upon reaching the stipulated age.
MEMBERS OF THE NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION
- Alina Balseiro Gutiérrez, president
- Tomás Amarán Díaz, vice president
- María Esther Bacallao Martínez, secretary
- Marina Capó Ribalta, from the Ministry of the Interior
- Caridad Álvarez Rivero, from the National Assembly of People’s Power
- Lidia Montes de Oca Fernández, from the National Organization of Legal Aid Collectives
- Manuel Félix Roig, from the National Organization of Legal Aid Collectives
- Cecilia Valdés Milián, from the Ministry of Communications
- Luisa Márquez Echevarría, from the Cuban Radio and Television Institute
- Joselyn Sánchez Hidalgo, from the People’s Supreme Court
- Yanio Hernández Heredia, from the University of Computer Sciences
- Minerva Valdés Temprana, from the Council of State
- Eralia Rodríguez Rodríguez, from the Attorney General’s Office
- Eugenio González Pérez, from the Ministry of Education
- Marcelo Pérez Pérez, from the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces
- Marcos Rodríguez Costa, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- José Alexis Ginarte Gato, from the National Union of Cuban Jurists