- Title: Cuban dissidents in electoral challenge as Castro era nears end
- Date: 7th September 2017
- Summary: HAVANA, CUBA (RECENT) (REUTERS) GENERAL VIEW OF ATTENDEES AT NEIGHBORHOOD MEETING TO CHOOSE CANDIDATES TO RUN IN MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS
- Embargoed: 21st September 2017 18:37
- Keywords: dissidents municipal elections Cuban government Castro brothers Raul Castro Fidel Castro
- Location: HAVANA, CUBA
- City: HAVANA, CUBA
- Country: Cuba
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0016XLM5VN
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Opponents of the Cuban government are putting forward an unprecedented number of candidates for municipal elections in late October, the first step in a process to select a new president after nearly 60 years of the Castro brothers' rule.
The electoral cycle comes at a tricky time for the Caribbean nation as the Castros' revolutionary generation dies off, an economic reform program appears stalled, aid from key ally Venezuela shrinks, and the Trump administration threatens.
The municipal vote, the only part of the electoral process with direct participation by ordinary Cubans, is expected to attract 35,000 candidates for the island's 168 municipal assemblies. It will be followed by provincial and national assembly elections in which candidates are selected from slates by commissions.
The new national assembly will in late February select a successor to President Raul Castro, 86, who has announced he will step aside after two terms.
The elections are being cast in state-run media as a show of support for the Castros' 1959 revolution rather than an opportunity to debate the pressing issues.
Campaigning is prohibited and candidates for the 12,515 ward delegate positions are nominated at neighborhood meetings based on their personal merits, not policy positions. They need not belong to the Communist Party and many candidates are independents but only few government opponents have ever competed.
During the last election, the three dissidents nominated lost at the polls.
This year, however, one coalition of opposition groups, Otro18 (Other18), says it is running more than 160 candidates in the municipal elections, demanding electoral reform and government transparency.
Boris Gonzalez, 41, one of the aspiring Otro18 candidates, explained they wanted to challenge the Communist Party from within the system.
Even if a few dissident candidates beat the odds and are elected to municipal assemblies, they have little chance of getting any further.
The candidates for the provincial and national assemblies are nominated by commissions composed of representatives of Communist Party-controlled organizations such as the trade union federation and Committees in Defense of the Revolution.
The slates have had the same number of names as seats in previous elections. Up to 50 percent of those names must be ward delegates.
After the general election, the assemblies elect their respective executives and on Feb. 24 the new National Assembly is scheduled to name a new president and other members of the Council of State.
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