To Vote is a Duty, not just a Right

By: Agnerys Rodríguez Gavilan (Juventud rebelde) – Missing the duty to vote should be punished with no lesser penalty than that of abandoning one’s weapon to an enemy, said José Martí; and Cubans honour that commitment on Feb. 3

“… If today they scorn exercising their free right, tomorrow, terrified, they will bow down to a tyrant to save them. To vote is a duty, like all rights, and missing the duty to vote should be punished with no lesser penalty than abandoning one’s weapon to the enemy!”

José Martí uttered this phrase in 1884, and the Cubans, near the 160th anniversary of his birth, are challenged by it. Going to the polls with the will and the responsibility for Election Day on February 3 constitutes a demonstration of civic, constitutional, ethical, patriotic and human growth.

For this the electoral authorities in the nation are working on the organization of the elections that will lead to the selection and constitution of the new National and Provincial Assemblies of People´s Power.

More than eight million Cubans have the institutional destiny of the nation in their hands, at a particularly special and crucial time for the development and consolidation of the work built in these 54 years of Revolution and Socialism, under the policy of hostility from the U.S. Government, which has used its powerful resources to try to overthrow the democratic system chosen by the Cubans.

These are times of change, rebuilding, doing, improving and climbing to a higher rung as a nation, country, society and people and therefore are times to participate, actively, responsible, creatively and committed.

And it also has to do with what we do at the polls on February 3, the day when, by constitutional law, all citizens, with legal capacity to do so, will intervene directly in the election of the management of the State.

Then, when they constitute the Parliament and the provincial assemblies, the people exercise Government through the 612 deputies and the 1,269 provincial delegates, for a period of five years.

Once the results of the elections are disclosed and its members meet to take up their positions and become the People’s National Assembly, we will have before us the supreme organ of state power to represent and express the sovereign will of the people, and it will be the only body with constituent and legislative authority in the Republic in the period 2013-2018. This is established by our Constitution.

And the people themselves are the nominees. Workers, farmers, cooperative members, teachers, doctors, scientists, writers, artists, religious leaders, students, managers, fighters of the FAR and MININT and political leaders and representatives of the People’s Power System, among others.

For their merits, humanity, moral and revolutionary, ability and willingness, they were the nominees from a pool, primarily at the municipal level, from more than 32,000 candidates for delegates to the municipal assemblies of People’s Power.

In this work, developed through consultation with all persons, organizations and institutions that were deemed relevant, they were responsible for nomination committees at all levels. Such election authority includes representatives of the Trades Union Council Cuba, which presides, the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women, the National Association of Small Farmers, the Federation of University Students and the Federation of Students of Secondary Education.

Then, in this instance, they requested, from the management bodies of the mass organizations that are represented in it, their proposals for voters to consider who should be included in the pool. And so the 954 meetings of these organizations developed.

Finally, the candidates were selected from the more than 7,000 candidates for the legislature and 4,500 provincial delegates.

In that way, the 612 nominees for members of Parliament in the Eighth Legislature represent all sectors of Cuban society. And more than 30 per cent of the total is directly linked to production and services.

This nomination is made up of 299 women, 48.86 per cent of the total, up from the 266 (43.32 per cent) of Parliament today in its Seventh Legislature.

The average age is 48 years, with the largest population sector represented by those between 36 and 50, and 78.43 per cent were born after the triumph of the Revolution.

With respect to their educational level, 82.68 per cent have higher education, 16.83 per cent further education and 0.49 per cent a standard background.

Some 50 per cent of the members of the nomination for deputy are also delegates to the municipal assemblies of People’s Power.
Further, the number of new candidates must be emphasized. As published in the newspaper Granma, the composition of the nominees, compares with the previous term, means a renewal of 67 per cent of the postulates.

Undoubtedly, we will have a new parliament to elect from among its deputies its president, vice president and secretary; and from among themselves, also select the Council of State, composed of a president, a first vice president, five vice presidents, a secretary and 23 other members.

Neither privileges nor benefits

One of the most distinctive ethical principles of democracy and the Cuban electoral system is that the status of deputy does not entail personal privileges or economic benefits.

The Constitution is unequivocal in this regard. During the time taken in the effective discharge of their functions, it says deputies receive the same salary as in their workplace and maintain the link with this, for all purposes.

In article 84, the Constitution states that the deputies to the National Assembly of People´s Power have their duties in the best interest of the people, keep in touch with their constituents, listen to their problems, suggestions and criticisms, and explain the State policy. They also render account of the performance of their duties, as provided by law.

Another distinctive feature of our democracy is that the deputies may be revoked at any time, as, for the reasons and in accordance with procedures established by law.

The commitment -and calling- to serve the people that nominated and elected them on February 3 in the polls, is beyond any question. And so, all state bodies and enterprises are required to provide to Members the collaboration necessary for the performance of their duties.

Cubans can then well understand, particularly the younger generation, and within these young people those eligible to vote, Cuba’s friends in every corner of this planet, why men and women of the nation, as the electoral authority, spend hours from their usual occupation and recreation, to ensure the people, material and logistics required by the Cuban electoral law for a process of this magnitude.

No less do the electors on February 3 in the polls. We vote sovereign and responsibly for candidates for deputies and delegates to the provincial assemblies of People’s Power.

It is not only to exercise a constitutional right: the act of voting is synonymous with defending the sovereignty and independence of the Fatherland, and an expression of the will and unity of the majority against the sceptics and plans for aggression and subversion by the U.S. Government.

Powers of the National Assembly of People´s Power

Under Article 75 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, the functions of the National Assembly of People´s Power are: agreeing amendments to the Constitution as provided in Article 137, to adopt, amend or repeal the laws after popular consultation when deemed necessary in view of the nature of the law in question, decide on the constitutionality of laws, decree-laws, decrees and other general provisions; revoke in whole or in part the decree-laws issued the State Council, discuss and approve national plans for economic and social development; discuss and approve the national budget, approve the principles of the planning and management of the national economy; agree on the monetary and credit system, to approve the guidelines of general domestic and foreign policy, declare a state of war in the case of military aggression and approving peace treaties, establish and modify the political-administrative division of the country in accordance with Article 102; elect the President, Vice President and Secretary of the National Assembly, to elect the President, the First Vice President, Vice Presidents, the Secretary and the other members of the Council of State, appoint, on the proposal of the President of the Council of State, the First Vice President, Vice Presidents and other members of the Council of Ministers; elect the President, Vice Presidents and other judges of the Supreme Court; elect the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General of the Republic, appoint standing and temporary committees and revoke the election or appointment of the elected or appointed by it, to exercise the highest supervision over the organs of state and government, and the other powers the Constitution.