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Overview of the Cuban political, electoral and judicial systems

THIS PAGE COVERS

Cuban Political System Electoral System
Electoral History and Process National Assembly
Council of State Council of Ministers
Provincial, Municipal Assemblies Judiciary System

CUBAN POLITICAL SYSTEM

Cuba is a republic with a centralized socialist system of government closely identified with the workers.

The structure of the State of the Republic of Cuba is as follows:

1. National Assembly of People's Power
2. Council of State
3. Council of Ministers
4. Provincial and Municipal Governments
5. Judiciary System

Political power rests with the National Assembly of People's Power, which nominates the Council of Ministers, the highest executive body. Its executive committee is composed of the president, the first vice-president and the vice-presidents of the Council of Ministers.

The National Assembly of People's Power is composed of deputies elected by secret and direct popular vote, for periods of five years. It sits regularly twice a year. Between sittings of the Assembly the 31-member Council of State, elected from members of the National Assembly, takes over its function.

The members of the National Assembly elect provincial and regional executive committees.

Municipal elections are held every two and half years, while Provincial and National elections, every five years.

ELECTORAL SYSTEM

The Cuban democratic system is regulated by Chapter XIV of the Constitution of the Republic, which establishes that in every election and referendum the vote is free, equal and secret. Each voter has the right to only one vote. All Cubans 16 years old and above have the right to vote.

All citizens, men and women, who fully enjoy their political rights can be elected, including the members of the Armed Forces and other military institutions.

For its political and administrative division, Cuba has 14 provinces and 169 municipalities. These are in turn divided into 13,865 electoral constituencies, which are the bases for the elections. The voters directly propose the candidates and elect their Representatives to the Municipal Assemblies of the People's Power.

ELECTORAL HISTORY AND PROCESS

The National Assembly of People's Power (Parliament), the highest legislative power, is elected every five years. From its members the Council of State is elected, which acts on behalf of the National Assembly, between sessions. The National Assembly also appoints the Council of Ministers. In 1992, the Parliament approved changes to the electoral system, which would strengthen public control over the government. Henceforth, the deputies to the National Assembly and the delegates to the Provincial Assembly were to be elected through free and direct ballot.

People's Councils were added to the governmental structure in 1988 and were renewed in 1993. Delegates are elected at the constituency level, they represent the area in which they work and have authority to develop the production and service industries, and to meet the people's needs.

Municipal Administrative Councils consist of elected representatives who work with delegates from social and economic organizations. These Councils can demand that these organizations fulfill their duties to the community.

Ricardo Alarcón, president of the National Assembly, believes that the democratic nature of the National Assembly has been improved, since to be elected you must be nominated by your community. Inherent in the system is the voter's right to recall delegates who are not fulfilling their mandate. This in conjunction with the fact that 99% of those eligible voted on February 24th 1993 reflects the people's active participation in their election process.

Nomination Assemblies are convened within constituencies to propose and elect candidates. There is no intervention by the Communist Party in the process. The Candidacy Commission draws up lists of candidates for delegates to the Provincial Assemblies and for deputies to the National Assembly. These Commissions are made up of representatives of trade unions, students, farmers and women's groups.

In 1998 were elected to the 5th Legislature 601 deputies, among them 282, representing the 46.92%, are base delegates, 145 work in centers of production and services, 31 are linked to the health system, 33 to the educational system, 26 to research institutes, 30 come from trade union, 25 from mass and social organizations, 7 are students, 3 are religious ministers, 14 are writers, artists and culture workers, 16 come from mass media, 35 are members of the armed forces, 67 are officials of the Communist Party and the Union of Communist Youth. The 27.62 % of the Deputies are women and 4.33% are young people under 30 years.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF THE PEOPLE'S POWER

The Assembly is the only in the Republic that is invested with constituent and legislative authority. It holds two regular sessions a year, which are public unless the Assembly itself votes to hold them behind closed doors for reasons of state.

The Assembly, a one-chamber Parliament, originated from the nation-wide elections held in 1976, with a turn-out, in the first electoral round, of 95.2% of the voters and of 94.9% in the second round. Elected officials, according to the procedures established by law, met for the first time on December 2, that year, thus formally setting up the Cuban Parliament.

The Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, approved in a Referendum on February 14, 1976 when 98% of the voters turned out, empowered the National Assembly as the supreme body of State power, representing and expressing the sovereign will of all the people.

Its deputies are elected every five years, and among them they elect their President, Vice President and Secretary, as well as the 31 members of the Council of State, whose President is the Head of State and Government. However, the Council of State must report to the National Assembly on all its work and tasks. The National Assembly from among its members elects the 31 members of the Council of State; their terms expire when a new Assembly is elected.

The National Assembly has the power to amend the Constitution, pass, amend, and repeal laws, debate and approved national plans for economic development, the State budget, credit and financial programs, the guidelines for domestic and foreign policies, as well as to elect the Council of Ministers, the Presidency, the members of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General Office of the Republic.

It, too, hears the reports from national government and administration agencies and can also grant amnesties. Its members do not receive any economic or personal perquisites and carry out their legislative duties together with their usual work, for which they get their salaries.

The National Assembly convenes twice a year in ordinary periods of sessions. It has, though, permanent commissions to look after issues of legislative interest.

Among its permanent or temporary commissions are those in charge of issues concerning the economy, the sugar industry, food production, industries, transportation and communications, constructions, foreign affairs, public health, defense and interior order.

The National Assembly also has permanent departments that oversee the work of the Commissions, Local Assemblies of the People's Power, International Relations, Judicial Affairs and the Administration.

COUNCIL OF STATE

This collegiate body is the highest representative of the Cuban state in national and international matters. The Council of State represents the National Assembly of the People's Power (a one-chamber Parliament) when the legislative house is in recess, it puts into practice its agreements and does any other work the Assembly may assign it.

Functions of the Council of State:

Convenes the National Assembly's extraordinary sessions
Fixes the date for Parliament elections
Issues decrees-law when the National Assembly is not in session
Makes general and mandatory interpretations of existing laws, when necessary
Takes the legislative initiative
Does whatever is necessary to hold referendum when the National Assembly so decides it
Calls for national mobilization when the country's defense if so required and takes on the power of declaring war in case of aggression or of negotiating peace when the National Assembly is not in session and it cannot be summoned on urgent and safety bases
Replaces, at the President's request, the members of the Council of Ministers when the National Assembly is in recess
Gives general instructions to the courts through the Governing Council of the People's Supreme Court
Gives instructions to the Attorney General Office of the Republic

The National Assembly elects the Council of State from among its members and the elected body must report to the legislative body on all its work.

The President of the Council of State is the Head of Government and State.

COUNCIL OF MINISTERS

The Council of Ministers is Cuba's top executive and administrative body and as such it is the Republic's Government. The Head of State and Government and the First Vice President chair it, and it includes other vice presidents, the secretary, the ministers and the administrators of national agencies.

The Council's most important body is its Executive Committee, chaired by the President, the First Vice President and the other vice presidents, who control and coordinate the work of the ministries and the administration's central bodies.

The Council is responsible of putting into practice the agreements the National Assembly reaches on the country's political, economic, cultural, scientific and social endeavor. It also proposes general plans for economic and social development and once passed by the National Assembly it directs and oversees their implementation.

It also directs the country's foreign policy and its relations with other governments; approves international treaties before passing them over for ratification of the Council of State; directs and oversees foreign trade; elaborates the State budget and watches over its implementation. The Council of Ministers enforces laws and puts into effect agreements the National Assembly reaches and the laws and decrees the Council State passes.

It must report periodically on all its work to the National Assembly.

Its President, the First Vice President, six Vice Presidents, the Secretary, and 27 ministers head the Council of Ministers.

PROVINCIAL AND MUNICIPAL ASSEMBLIES

Cuba is divided in 15 provinces, a special municipality under the supervision of the central government and 169 municipalities subordinate to their respective provincial authorities.

The Assemblies of representatives of the People's Power are the top political bodies of power of the State at municipal and provincial levels according to the Constitution.

Local officials have the highest authority for exercising their state functions. They hold local governments and through the bodies of power they create they run production and economic enterprises and the services, and try to meet the health, economic, cultural, educational and recreation needs of the people under their jurisdiction.

These provincial and municipal governments also contribute to the development and implementations of economic, social and cultural plans within their territories, which are not directly subordinate to them. By law, for the exercise of their functions the local Assemblies rely on the initiative and participation of the people and work closely with social and political organizations.

They are also represented in the People's Councils, set up in cities, towns, neighborhoods, villages and rural areas, with the authority to carry out their functions in their localities and are an extension of the governing bodies of the People's Power.

The members of the People's Councils come from the representatives elected at the local constituencies, and they should elect their leaders. Members of the most important local organizations and institutions can also be part of them.

Once set up, the Municipal Assemblies (21 days after the representatives are elected) and Provincial bodies (15 days later) choose from among their members by secret and direct vote their presidents and vice presidents, who immediately take on their posts.

Only the voters can recall a delegate, and they may exercise this night at any time. Each Assembly elects the President and the Vice-president of the Government.

JUDICIARY SYSTEM

Judicial power rests with the People's Supreme Court, which is elected by, and accountable to, the National Assembly. All judges, from the highest to the lowest, are elected by the respective Popular Power Assemblies; in other words, the Supreme Court judges are elected by the National Assembly; the provincial judges by provincial assemblies and the municipal judges by municipal assemblies.

The People's Supreme Court comprises a president, a vice president, and all professional and lay judges and is structured as follows: the Whole, the State Council, criminal, civil, administrative, labor, crimes-against-the-state and military courts.

The judicial system is based on the principle that all judges, professional or lay, are independent and are subject only to the law, and all professional or lay judges are elected, accountable and can be replaced.

OTHER QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS ABOUT CUBAN DEMOCRACY ?

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