Title media by
Paige Gurstein

Graphic design by Paige Gurstein.

Cuba’s latest national parliament election was held Mar. 26, where 470 deputies were elected to serve a five-year term in the National Assembly of People’s Power. Despite claims from the U.S. government that Cuba is a repressive authoritarian state, Cuba’s election process ensures that citizens are represented freely and fairly by their politicians. 

The diverse group of candidates election were elected by “candidacy committees,” or election committees, made up of representatives from a myriad of Cuban organizations. These include the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba, the Federation of Cuban Women, the Federation of High School Students, the Federation of University Students, the National Association of Small Farmers and the Committees in Defense of the Revolution. 

The 2023 election candidates come from a host of different backgrounds; among them are Eduardo Sosa, a 50-year-old musician; Mariela Castro, an LGBTQ+ advocate and the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education as well as Carlos Miguel Perez, a local business owner. 

One-fifth of those who ran are between 18- to 35-years-old, over 40% are Black and more than half of the candidates are women.  

Representation of women is nothing new, with women comprising 53.4% of the current Cuban legislature —the second largest percentage of women in parliament in the world. The United States pales in comparison, with women accounting for only 28% of Congress, representing just 153 of 540 voting and nonvoting members. 

The current president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, a member of the communist party, praised the variety of the 2023 national assembly nominees. 

“What we appreciate in the brief life reviews of all candidates for Parliament is an impressive comprehensive and diverse portrait of the Cuban people,” Díaz-Canel tweeted Mar. 23.

To facilitate voting, Cuban officials announced in March that there would be an additional 250 special polling stations available for voters. Opened in student residences, tourist facilities, hospitals and other frequently trafficked areas, the additional polling sites ensure everyone a chance to cast their vote, even while working. There were over 23,600 polling stations in total, according to the National Electoral Council. 

Following a longstanding tradition of anti-socialist propaganda, the United States portrays Cuba as an anti-democratic, authoritarian regime. Since the country is falsely depicted as a one-party state, voting in Cuba is regarded as futile in U.S. media. In reality, however, Cuba’s electoral process guarantees a participatory democracy that represents the voice of the people through local electors, outshining U.S. voting procedures plagued by corporate-backed politicians, the electoral college and racial redistricting.  

Cuba's campaigning process preserves the nation’s democratic ideals by removing money as an election factor; unlike the United States, neither money nor party membership factor into the nomination process. 

Cuban elections are divided into two separate levels: municipal and national. Citizens over the age of 16 years old are automatically registered to vote for both elections, and anyone older than 16 is eligible to run in municipal elections. Those who are at least 18 years-old may run as a national delegate. 

Local municipal elections are conducted every two years across 169 different municipal assemblies. Prior to the elections, Cubans have the opportunity to attend neighborhood meetings to nominate candidates who will ultimately represent them in the national assembly. These meetings are held both in residential areas, workplaces and education centers, offering students and workers the opportunity to speak directly with potential candidates. 

Municipal nominees do not have to be affiliated with the Cuban Communist party, and are typically well-known members of the community. Upon being proposed, nominees may either accept or decline. 

Every five years — three months after the most recent municipal election — Cuba holds a national election. A maximum of eight adjacent neighborhoods will come together to form a constituency in the national elections. Two to eight of the nominees from each constituency are to be elected to the national assembly. 

The Communist Party of Cuba does not hand-select or back specific candidates; rather, the people themselves decide on their representatives. Cuban electors can have their mandates revoked at any time at the discretion of their constituents, ensuring representatives are held accountable by voters and are not fiscally influenced.

From Feb. 6 to Mar. 24, candidates held meetings to speak with constituents in preparation for the upcoming national election. Unlike the United States, candidates’ campaigns do not feature expensive tours and false platform promises. 

Alternately, in 2022, the U.S. federal election spent over $8.9 billion in campaigning expenses, and Senate candidates spent an average of $13.5 million to obtain a seat in the chamber. Such campaign funding has historically come from unethical corporations in the oil and gas industries, weapons manufacturers and hedge funds, aligning political interests with the richest members of society. 

As U.S. politicians rake in funds from wealthy donors who will later influence policy decisions, Cuban representatives receive no financial or personal benefits, instead getting paid leave from their primary occupation, as well as enough funds to travel to Havana. 

Candidates in the national election provide a short biography and a picture of themselves at polling stations, allowing voters to get a sense of their qualifications. 

Cuba’s democratic election system also encourages high voter turnout. Voters have access to an abundance of polling stations, and the ballot process decreases wait times. Between 1976, the year in which the first socialist constitution was implemented, and 2010, voter turnout consistently hovered at around 95%. While facing a period of low economic growth due to U.S. sanctions, recent voter turnout dropped to just over 83% in the March 2018 national elections. 

In the 2020 U.S. presidential election, comparatively, voter turnout hovered at 62%, three points below the OECD average. Working-class voters in the United States, especially those who are Black and Brown, often face extensive challenges when it comes to casting their ballot. These issues have risen to prominence following the  400 anti-voter bills that have been proposed across the United States since 2021

Strict voter registration laws and harsh violation penalties make it difficult for even registered voters to participate in elections. There are currently seven states which impose severe voter ID restrictions, requiring voters to have specific forms of government-issued photo ID. Over 21 million U.S. citizens do not have the necessary ID required, an overwhelming amount of them being people of color.

Voter suppression has also taken the form of racial gerrymandering, which has historically prevented Black and Brown votes from making an impact in elections, especially in southern states. 

Outside of the U.S. mainland, those of unincorporated and politically disenfranchised territories, such as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, cannot vote in national elections, despite being legally recognized as U.S. citizens. 

The U.S. tradition of holding elections on Tuesday additionally prevents many working-class folks from getting to the polls. In the 2016 election, an average of 50% of people from low-income families voted, compared to 86% of people from high-earning families. In Cuba, however, all elections are held on Sunday when most people have the day off. 

The success of Cuban democracy comes as a result of the socialist ideology that guides Cuban political processes. In 1898, following the Spanish-American war, Cuba became under control of the U.S. military. Governmental policies forcibly implemented by the U.S. government restricted voting in Cuba to only 5% of the population, up until the 1959 Communist Revolution, led by Fidel Castro. 

Despite the failures of the political apparatus in guaranteeing democracy, the United States continues to spread propaganda and disinformation surrounding life in Cuba under the Communist ‘regime.’ Cuba has endured over 60 years of the U.S. imperialist blockade and yet, the nation continues to lead in gender equality, education, healthcare accessibility and vaccine administration, as well as a democratic system of government.