Viet Nam News
HAVANA — Cubans choose municipal councilors Sunday in island-wide local elections that are the first step in a process meant to culminate next year with the election of a successor to President Raul Castro.
Castro, 86, cast his ballot at a voting station in western Havana, where he stopped to talk to neighbors and students who were guarding ballot boxes, images aired on Cuban television showed.
No opposition candidates are competing in the elections for the more than 12,500 council seats.
Instead, voters will choose from among 30,000 candidates selected by acclamation in neighborhood assemblies.
More than eight million people are eligible to cast ballots, but voting is voluntary. Ballots are secret.
Cuba’s only direct election, the municipal vote is the first step in a multi-step process for choosing leaders at higher levels of government.
It is set to culminate in February with the election of Castro’s successor as president, in what would be the first generational change of leadership since the 1959 revolution led by his brother Fidel.
For the first time in nearly six decades, it appears, Cuba’s president will not be named Castro or be a member of the old guard that came to power during the revolution.
Sunday’s balloting comes a day after Cuba marked the first anniversary of Fidel Castro’s death.
All signs point to current First Vice President Migel Diaz-Canel being chosen to replace 86-year-old Raul, who succeeded the ailing Fidel as president in 2008.
Diaz-Canel, a 57-year-old engineer, slowly climbed to the top rungs of the Cuban hierarchy over a three-decade career under Raul’s mentorship.
Castro is expected to remain head of the all-powerful Communist Party, however. He would be 90 when his current term ends in 2021.
Cuba’s electoral system provides for municipal council elections every two and a half years, and mayoral and parliamentary elections every five years.
The council members elected Sunday will propose half the candidates for election to the provincial assemblies and the parliament, which will then elect the council of state and the president. The other candidates are proposed by six social organisations close to the government. — AFP