Anita Snow | AP
Cuba announced Tuesday it has set Jan. 20 for national elections that are part of the process of determining whether ailing leader Fidel Castro continues as president.
The ruling, signed by interim leader Raul Castro and read on state television, set the date for elections to provincial and national assemblies u2;014 voting that is held every five years.
There was no explicit mention of Fidel Castro, but the 81-year-old leader of the Cuban Revolution must be re-elected to the national parliament before he could repeat as president of the Council of State to remain in full power.
Raul, 76, is the council’s first vice president.
The date for the national elections had not been previously announced, but earlier indications were that the vote would not be held until March or April. There was no word on why the balloting will be held in January.
Fidel Castro stepped aside on July 31, 2006, after undergoing emergency intestinal surgery, provisionally ceding his powers to Raul and a team of other top leaders. He has not been seen in public since, appearing only in official photographs and videos and regularly writing essays with mostly international themes.
The parliament, known in Cuba as the National Assembly, elects a new council every five years, several weeks after deputies are elected. It was not announced when the new National Assembly would meet for the first time to renew the top council members.
The Constitution calls for the council’s first vice president, currently Raul, to fill the presidential slot when vacated. Fidel, Cuba’s unchallenged leader since 1959, held the council presidency since its 1976 creation.