HAVANA – More than eight million Cuban voters are likely to take part in the first round of universal elections today.
The vote comes the day after the first anniversary of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro’s death and precedes another election early next year for provincial and national assembly deputies.
The new national assembly, where 50 percent of the deputies must be ward delegates elected on Sunday, is expected on Feb. 24 to select a new president to replace Raul Castro, Fidel’s 86-year-old younger brother, who has said he will step down after serving two five-year terms.
The Castro brothers have headed the government since the 1959 revolution.
The 57-year-old Miguel Dias Canel, vice-president of the Cuban Council of Ministers, is the most likely successor. At the same time, Raul Castro is expected to remain at the head of the Cuban Communist Party – the only official political party on the island – until 2012.
Caubans will elect MPs in the local authorities – the municipal councils, which will be the first step towards renewing the composition of regional parliaments and then the national unicameral parliament.
At the end of February 2018 the MPs from the newly elected National Assembly will appoint the Chairman of the State Council – the State and Government Head.
In today’s municipal elections, 27 200 candidates will fight for 12 500 seats. Deputies in municipal councils are elected for a term of two and a half years.
Election offices open at 7am local time. The vote ends at 18:00.
The results will be announced on Monday.
This year a coalition of opposition groups ran more than 160 pre-candidates, but most were blocked by state security from nomination meetings, and none are running on Sunday.
On December 3, a second round will take place in the areas where none of the candidates received more than 50 percent of the vote.
Fidel Castro passed away on November 25 last year at the age of 90. Yesterday, Cuba marked the first anniversary of his death.