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"The 'united vote' [to vote for all candidates on the ballot] is a guarantee against exclusion, demagoguery and the old-style politicking, in addition to being a fortification against division," said Parliamentary President Ricardo Alarcón on Wednesday

More than 8,400,000 Cubans will go to the urns on January 20 to vote in the general elections for representatives. From this will be selected the delegates in provincial assemblies and the National Assembly.

This information was detailed on yesterday's broadcast of Cuban television's commentary program "The Round Table." Featured on the program was Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, president of the Cuban Parliament, as well as members of the National Electoral and Candidacy Commission.

"In these elections," Alarcón affirmed, "the 'united vote' [to vote for all candidates on the ballot, T.N.] is the guarantee that the assemblies truly represent all Cubans and include leaders, intellectuals, scientists, athletes, and students - but also housewives, workers, and people from the community."

"The united vote also assures that that those selected are the fruit of reflection and analysis, and not the fulfillment of a mere slogan, because very strong reasons exist for this, the first of them is the fact that all Cubans over 16 can vote.

Alarcón also explained that this vote is not only supporting the nation, the Revolution and socialism, but also a sign of support for the Cuban electoral system, where the nomination of candidates is public, just as the registration of voters is public, free, automatic, universal and subject to the democratic control.

He noted how in the United States elections do not unfold this way. He cited articles from the press of that country where it was affirmed, for example, that millions of people are prevented from voting for the rest of their life if they have served time in prison.

One of the articles, by Senator John Kerry, titled "Let the People Vote!" criticized how laws adopted in the state of Indiana were adding new requirements that eliminate more voters; as well as the maneuvers executed in Las Vegas, where the members of a food workers union "backers of Black democratic candidate Barack Obama" were excluded from the elections.

In this respect, the Cuban Parliament's president explained that there are increasingly more journalists of diverse origins and parties who are calling to end the exclusion of Blacks and to increase the number of places where people in poor neighborhoods can vote, as was pointed out in the article by Senator Kerry.

"For that reason" said Alarcón, "in Cuba, to vote for everyone on the ballot is in turn to maintain a political system in which we all can vote, and also one in which we all participate in the nominations of those same candidates."

He pointed out how in this country, contrary to what happens in the rest of the world, deputies do not receive any money for their functions; they have to give accounts to the public on what they do and their community can revoke them at any time.

"The united vote," he added, "is also a guarantee against exclusion, demagoguery and politicking. It is also a fortification against division that can be so very costly; it has cost Cubans a lot of blood and sacrifice, because it meant Zanjón , US intervention and occupation; and it is in turn support for Fidel, who has, among other grand merits, the one who forged the unity of the Cuban people.

Ricardo Alarcón finished his address recalling that the moment in which one exercises their right to the vote, the person is totally alone, and the only witness will be their conscience.

"And at that moment," he affirmed, "there are five compañeros to think about [referring to the Cuban Five, imprisoned in the United States, T.N.], who have not spent just seconds alone, but ten years of almost total isolation.

"They are in this situation because the empire wanted to break them, but they have not been able to. Through the they [the Cuban Five] have demonstrated that in our people there tremendous reserves of dignity. For that reason, on January 20 all Cubans will be like them, but only for a few seconds, and they will have the opportunity to give with their vote a firm yes for the nation, the Revolution and our social system."

There are also districts

During "The Round Table" broadcast, María Esther Reus, president of the National Electoral Commission, explained that the general elections to be completed on Sunday is characterized by two stages.

The first one of these culminated with the constitution of 169 municipal assemblies, made up of 15,236 delegates elected at the community level. Of them, she said, it is important to point out that 27.3 percent are women and 16.9 percent youth.

The Minister of Justice explained that the second stage began with the nominations of delegates to the provincial assemblies and the National Assembly, who each will be elected if they are able to garner more than 50 percent of the votes.

The administrator also commented that on this occasion changes have been made in the nomination process and the elections, because the basic structure is now the municipality. In this way, she explained, the nomination process has its particularities, because it is carried out at this level.

In addition, electoral districts have been created in all municipalities that have more than 100,000 inhabitants. Today Cuba has 90 of these in 29 municipalities. These 90 districts, together with the 140 municipalities that don't have them, will make of 230 electoral commissions representing the people of the country.

A wide selection of candidates

A proof of the participative democracy of the Cuban election process is that the pre-candidacy to the provincial and the national assemblies is composed by 62,927 candidates, president of the National Commission of Candidacy, Amarilys Pérez Santana, explained.

In the selection there are 285 grassroots delegates, 46.2 percent of all the candidates; the rest are noted personalities of science, culture, sports and political leaders, which explains why there are candidates that do not live in the municipalities where they were nominated.

This is a strength because it makes it easier to elect representatives to the National Assembly with different points of views from different social spheres and from different areas.

The candidacy for the National Assembly has been made up with the more than 62,000 proposals. Some of those proposals were chosen taking into account the performance of members of Cuban society. Others have been presented by several other Cuban citizen's organizations.

The National Assembly that will be chosen on January 20 will be made up of 614 Cubans, five more than the current legislature, in accordance with the growth of the population over the last five years.

These figures correspond with the number of habitants of each area. Although some representatives do not live in the places from which they will be elected, they have been submitted to a process of consultations to guarantee the quality of the proposal in every constituency and workplace.

At the same time, the candidacies reflect the composition and the qualities of the Cuban people, since they represent all branches of society and the economy. Proof of this is that more than the 28 percent of the candidates are workers, farmers, educators and health workers, or are directed related to production and services.

This heterogeneous composition also has scientists, athletes, members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and representatives of religious institutions. Also, 43.16 percent are women, 64.33 percent are white, 35.67 are black or mixed, and the average age is 49.

Other figures that show the diversity of the candidates is that the educational level is higher, since 481 candidates have completed college studies, 127 studied up to high school and only 0.98 percent studied up to secondary school.

Another important element is the renewal of the current representatives, with 385 new candidates to this legislature (63.22 percent).

More women in the parliament

According to Mayda Álvarez, vice president of the National Candidature Commission, worldwide, Cuba may become the third leading country in terms of the high percentage of women in its Parliament.

This is something unusual because worldwide the presence of women in this type of legislative organizations is around 17 percent, according to data of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

The official also explained that a very important stage of the current election process was the constitution of candidacies to the provincial assemblies, for which candidates have to be 16 years or older, live in the province and have been nominated in the municipal assemblies.

For these proposals, 52,283 people were analyzed and 1,201 men and women were selected, including 834 new proposals, for a succession rate of 69.44 percent.

Of them, 49.3 percent are directly related to production and services, and 40.8 percent are women. At the same time, 65 percent are white and 35 percent are black or mixed; and 73.1 percent have a university degree.

They also explained on the Round Table TV program that 38,357 electoral colleges will function during the elections, 600 more than in the previous stage, which will facilitate the voting process and the counting of the votes.

Voters will also have the possibility to vote in places different from where they live if they away from home for work or certain other reasons. To this end, electoral colleges have been set up in places such as bus and train stations, hospitals, etc.

In preparation, a dry run was carried out, said María Esther Reus, president of the National Electoral Commission. She explained that the trial was described as a success because only four percent of electoral colleges had problems.

The proper implementation of communications has also been guaranteed with the activation of 21,906 landline telephones and the transmission of data via computers, as well as more than 3,000 cell phones that will be used during the elections.

The Round Table TV program concluded with the reading of a "Call to the Cuban People," by mass and students organizations, as well as the Association of Combatants, who call for a united vote.

(Cuban Newspapers Online)

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