In the end, despite what the regime tries to sell us, the voice and the exit continue to grow in Cuba, in the face of dwindling loyalty.
By Armando Chaguaceda y Felipe Galli
HAVANA TIMES – In a dictatorship, elections — let’s call them voting — are useful for some things. Although they are not, as in democracy, mechanisms to peacefully and periodically renew power, these elections serve as an ornament for formal validation of the authoritarian government, inside and outside the country. Voting also serves as a tool to co-opt and mobilize sympathizers, to besiege and demoralize opponents, and to inform the government itself of the very popular support.
Today, March 26, the general elections will take place in Cuba, whose nominal purpose is to renew the 470 seats of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the highest legislative body (again, nominal) of the Caribbean country. Eight million registered voters receive a ballot containing, already designated, congresspersons who will represent their municipality. You will be given a few options: vote for the entire list, vote for one of the list, or, in the case of municipalities with three or more representatives, vote for some and discard others. There is no possibility of rejecting the entire list. Thus, there is no competition whatsoever. You vote but do not choose.
For many, considering the political context of a Leninist regime closed to outside scrutiny, such a process would be of no interest. In fact, in the totalitarian Cuba of a decade ago, between 95 and 98% of the registered electorate would have voted, the null vote would not have exceeded 3% and more than 90% would have approved the entire list without even bothering to mark one candidate or another. A simple ritual to confirm the legitimacy of the dictatorship. Not voting would be seen as a sign of dissidence, an easy way to “mark” an opponent. Therefore, abstention would always be the minimum.
However, Andreas Schedler (La política de la incertidumbre en los regímenes electorales autoritarios, Mexico, Fondo de Cultura, 2016) explains that elections under a dictatorship can be for the citizenry arenas of questioning and mobilization against the authorities. Adam Przeworski reminds us (¿Por qué tomarse la molestia de hacer