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Search starts for successor to Raul Castro as top leader

China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-07 09:20

HAVANA - Thousands of Cubans gathered in neighborhood assemblies which began on Monday night to nominate candidates for local and regional representatives, marking the first step toward the eventual election of a successor to top leader Raul Castro.

In this first stage, which will run until Sept 30, two or more candidates for "delegates" will be nominated in the more than 12,000 districts of the country according to their merits, prestige and ability to contribute to the communities.

In one of Old Havana's most popular neighborhoods, about 200 people met in a street adorned with Cuban flags and a banner with a picture of late leader, Fidel Castro, to nominate the candidates who will best represent them over the next two and a half years.

"The most important thing this process has is that as neighbors we propose our candidates. We nominate those who care about the problems of the population and the community," said Gladys Marce, one of the participants in the nomination assembly.

Search starts for successor to Raul Castro as top leader

On this first night, an assembly was held in each of the country's 168 municipalities, while during the next three weeks more than 45,000 neighborhood meetings will take place to nominate candidates for local representatives.

"I owe myself to the voters; I always try to solve our neighborhood's problems and deal with State entities to find a solution to the issues of those whom I represent," said Nereyda Soto, 76, a current district delegate.

Soto, who was also nominated for a possible fourth term, said these assemblies are an "exercise of true democracy" because anyone can nominate a neighbor regardless of their political ideas.

According to the Cuban Electoral Law, any citizen can be nominated as a delegate. He or she doesn't have to be with a political organization or the ruling Communist Party.

"People are nominated here because of their merits and social trajectory. The voters decide who will represent them to better solve the main local problems," said Soto.

Elections for delegates to municipal and provincial assemblies will take place on Oct 22. The process will conclude in February when the new members of parliament will elect the nation's top leader. A total of 338,900 young Cubans older than 16 years will vote for the first time.

Many young people will participate in verifying these assemblies to prevent fraud.

The island's youth is playing a leading and decisive role in these elections to "ensure" continuity of the political process started in 1959, said Gerardo Puentes, a 20-year-old university student.

"We'll take over the nation in the short term to continue what has been done so far and improve it," he said.

The Oct 22 election will be the first in a series of votes for local, provincial and national officials.

The National Assembly is expected to pick the president and members of the Council of State in February, when Raul Castro is expected to step down.

Raul Castro, 86, took the helm of the country in 2008 from his late brother Fidel Castro. He has launched a series of socioeconomic reforms welcomed by his countrymen.


(China Daily 09/07/2017 page11)

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