HAVANA – Governed for almost 60 years by historic figures of the Revolution, Cuba is preparing for a new generation to take power, a process that begins with Sunday’s general elections to choose lawmakers for the National Assembly.
More than 8 million Cubans are registered to vote this Sunday for the 605 legislators that make up the National Assembly of People’s Power in elections that signify the ratification of the candidates, since there are exactly 605 seats in the nation’s unicameral parliament.
The legislative body that emerges from the elections will be formally installed on April 19, a date when the lawmakers will propose and elect among themselves those who will occupy the chief positions of the Council of State, the highest branch of government that includes the president.
Everything indicates that the person picked to succeed Raul Castro will be his “number two” in the presidency since 2013, First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, born after the triumph of the Revolution and trained in the principles of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), the only legal political party on the island.
However, a professor at the University of Texas who is an expert in Cuban politics, Arturo Lopez-Levy, told EFE that while he hopes for change that puts an end to six decades of Castro rule, “the substance of (Diaz-Canel’s) policies will be very much like Raul Castro winning a third term.”
In fact, the younger Castro, 86, will continue until 2021 as first secretary of the PCC, where he will have “a stabilizing, mediating role to bind the new leaders and their political coalitions to the basis of the system,” Lopez-Levy said.
In the street few doubt that Diaz-Canel will inherit command, a change that the majority believes will occur without alarming anyone, under the guidance of the PCC, though some do not hide their wish to have a younger president in power after the rigid militarism that has governed the country since the victory of the Revolution in 1959.
Among the new voters is Lazaro, a 19-year-old university student, who said skeptically that the new president “will necessarily bring some changes, and may they please be for the better.”
On the other hand, Harold, a uniformed cadet at the Interior Ministry, said “I’m going to vote in the Sunday elections because they’re historic. We have to vote to preserve the principles of the Revolution and keep following the legacy of our Commander Fidel Castro.”