HAVANA – More than 25,000 electoral precincts opened their doors on Sunday around Cuba so that some eight million citizens can vote on the referendum for the new constitution, which confirms communism as the country’s political and economic model but also acknowledges private property.
The polls opened at 7:00 am and were set to close at 6:00 pm, with 195 special precincts established at hospitals, airports and bus stations for those citizens who are unable to make it to their regular precincts.
More than 225 electoral officials are involved in the referendum on the island, according to the National Electoral Commission (CEN).
In Havana, 1.6 million citizens are eligible to vote, while in Santiago de Cuba – the country’s second most important city – almost 701,000 citizens are eligible.
The CEN reported that 25,348 precincts have been established nationwide, 7.6 percent of them in private homes.
Prior to the referendum, early voting on the new charter was held at 122 electoral sites to serve 130 countries around the world where Cuban diplomats and professionals are deployed.
The new constitution will replace the one that has been in place since 1976.
Cubans age 16 and older living on the island will be able to vote “yes” or “no” on the new constitution, the text of which was submitted to popular debate and was approved by the country’s unicameral Parliament last December.
The final draft of the new charter includes 229 articles and assorted other elements, to which 760 mostly minor amendments were added after a three-month period of public consultation. In all, 60 percent of the original draft was modified after consultations with the citizenry and assorted officials.
The new constitution introduces no changes to the Cuban political system, keeps Cuba’s Communist Party as the “superior guiding force of society” and ratifies communism as the country’s political and economic system despite the fact that this term was eliminated from the first draft of the constitutional reform.
New features in the document recognizes private property, acknowledges that foreign investment is necessary, establishes the figures of president and prime minister and sets forth a limit of two consecutive terms on the mandate of the president.
In addition, it eliminates the controversial article that opened the door to same-sex marriage and – with regard to press freedom – states that in no case may the basic communications media be privately owned.
Although in Cuba political campaigns are not allowed, on the social networks the government and official organizations are actively promoting the “yes” option for the new charter to a sector of the public that has come out openly against the document under the “#yovotono” and “#yonovoto” hashtags.