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Cuba heads to the polls, all eyes on voter turnout

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who voted in his hometown, says citizens will have the last word as the country votes in a national election.

March 27, 2023
By Dave Sherwood
27 March 2023

Cubans are voting for the 470 lawmakers who will represent them in the country’s National Assembly, in a closely watched election seen as a referendum on the communist-run government at a time of deep economic crisis.

Voting centres in the capital Havana opened at 7am on Sunday and bustled with activity through mid-day as citizens arrived to cast ballots at the city’s share of more than 23,000 official ballot sites throughout the country.

By 11am, nearly 42 per cent of the country had voted, according to Cuba’s National Electoral Council (CEN).

Cuba’s government, saddled by shortages, inflation and growing social unrest, has encouraged unity, calling on citizens to vote together in a broad show of support for the communist leadership.

Anti-government forces, primarily off-island in a country that restricts dissident political speech, have said a vote has no real meaning in a one-party system with no formal opposition, labeling the elections a “farce”. Dissident groups have called on Cubans to abstain from voting.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who voted in his hometown of Santa Clara just after sunrise on Sunday, said citizens would have the last word.

“Some people may put the difficult economic situation ahead of their willingness to vote, but I don’t think it will be a majority,” Diaz-Canel told reporters.

The 470 candidates on Sunday’s paper ballot are vying for 470 open seats. There are no opposition candidates.

The winning 470 candidates, who serve for five years, will choose the next president of Cuba from among their ranks, further raising the stakes of Sunday’s vote.

The newly elected National Assembly is also due to debate and pass laws that will regulate the press and the right to protest, among other key issues.

Results are expected early next week.

Cuba does not allow independent international observers to oversee the country’s elections.

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