By Dave Sherwood

HAVANA (Reuters) – More than 70% of Cubans eligible to vote had cast their ballots by late Sunday afternoon in an election for the 470 lawmakers who will represent them in the country’s National Assembly, with turnout equaling that of two previous votes in 2022 surpassed. officials said.

Participation in Sunday’s elections was seen by both pro-government and anti-government groups as an indicator of support for Cuba’s communist leadership at a time of deep economic crisis and mounting social unrest.

Election officials said Sunday night that turnout had surpassed 70% by 5 p.m. ET (2100 GMT) with two hours remaining before polling stations closed at 7 p.m. That turnout surpassed both local election turnouts in November and a September referendum on Cuba’s Family Code, which legalized gay marriage.

Though results aren’t expected until Monday or Tuesday, the Cuban government, weighed down by shortages, inflation and record-breaking migration, is likely to call the stronger-than-expected turnout a success after weeks of rallying for a “unified vote” in support the six-decade-old Cuban Revolution of former leader Fidel Castro.

Cuba monitors its own elections and does not allow independent international observers to oversee the proceedings.

Anti-government groups, mostly based outside the island in a country that limits political speech by dissidents, had encouraged voters to stay home in protest and said a vote meant nothing in a one-party system with no formal opposition or international oversight.

The 470 candidates in Sunday’s paper ballot were vying for 470 vacant seats in the legislature. To win a seat in the National Assembly, a candidate must receive more than half the votes of those who cast ballots.

There were no opposition candidates in the election, and the majority of candidates were members of the country’s Communist Party or allied groups.

The winning candidates, who remain in office for five years, will choose Cuba’s next president from among their ranks.

Incumbent President Miguel Diaz-Canel is widely expected to be re-elected by lawmakers.

Lawmakers elected on Sunday will also discuss and pass legislation regulating the press and the right to protest.


Diaz-Canel, who spoke to reporters in his hometown of Santa Clara shortly after the vote was cast, said he was confident Cubans would vote despite predictions to the contrary. Abstention has been on the rise in several elections in Cuba.

The Cuban president also criticized the longtime enemy of the United States for what he called a “hostile narrative” towards Cuba and its elections, and urged Cubans to vote to defend their homeland against foreign intervention.

“This is a vote in defense of the revolution, in defense of socialism,” Diaz-Canel said early Sunday.

On the eve of the vote, Brian Nichols, assistant secretary for western hemisphere affairs at the US State Department, said the Cuban elections offered no “real choice.”

“When the Communist Party is the only choice and closed committees select candidates running unopposed, there is no democracy, only autocracy and misery,” he wrote on Twitter.

(Reporting by Dave Sherwood; Additional reporting by Mario Fuentes, Anett Rios, and Alexander Frometa; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Raju Gopalakrishnan)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *