A NEW LAW THAT WILL ALLOW THE PEOPLE TO CHOOSE
Inspired by the ideals proclaimed in the Cuban Forum Campaign, we have submitted a citizens’ petition to the offices of the National Assembly of People’s Power, which calls for the Electoral Law, Law No. 72, to be repealed and for a new electoral law to be approved that will guarantee the right of Cuban citizens to elect and be elected.
The current Electoral Law allows for only one candidate for each seat in the Provincial Assemblies and one candidate for each seat in the National Assembly of People’s Power and does not allow citizens to choose between different candidates.
Law No. 72 establishes the Candidacy Commissions as the only bodies authorized to propose candidates for delegates to the Provincial Assembly and members of the National Assembly of People’s Power. This impedes citizens from freely nominating the candidates that they prefer to these positions.
These provisions are disguised within text of this Law by mechanisms such as the “united vote” and the possibility that an elector may vote for all of the candidates that are on their ballot instead of voting for his own delegate and member. If on the one hand, the Law is full of contradictions with the Constitution and with the right to sovereignty, which resides within the people; on the other, the environment of intolerance and lack of respect for liberty and civil and political rights makes it impossible for the electoral process to be truly democratic.
The Cuban people want change, peaceful change, and they deserve to have the rights and the abilities to define those changes and to decide their own fate. The Electoral Law and elections constitute the sphere in which the right to sovereignty may be either gained or lost. Therefore, we call on all Cubans to review and to support this petition for a new Electoral Law and for an environment in which freedom of expression and the right of all citizens to participate, according to their own criteria, in the political life of our Homeland. Many Cubans are unjustly imprisoned for peacefully defending these rights.
There are different opinions on the reality currently faced by Cubans, different opinions on the past and different opinions on what life in the future should be like. This diversity should not be a source of conflict among Cubans, but rather it should enrich our lives. But there is one thing on which we should all agree: that all Cubans have the right to all of their rights. In order for Cubans to decide on a better future for all and work together to achieve it, it is indispensable that the laws guarantee the exercise of these rights. An essential right is the right of citizens to freely and democratically elect their representatives in all levels of government.
Elections are not an ordinary event. If they are truly free and democratic, they will be the step which will define the path for our people toward a new era of our history, where we will overcome that which divides us and challenges us, that which attacks our dignity. It will be an era in which we will save all that is good and noble in our society. But this future can only come to pass if we are free men and women. In the present moment of our history, Cuba needs transparency and trust, and this can only be achieved by respecting the rights and ideas of all. For this future to transpire, an electoral process may not be imposed on Cubans with the same law, the same regulations and the same environment which for years have impeded the people from expressing themselves freely. For this new era, Cuba needs new laws and new elections. But most of all, we need to transform our hearts and mind so that they too are made new and better.
Our people are raising their gaze towards the future, and they want to see, and have the right to see, a new horizon of reconciliation, peace and liberty.
Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas Minervo Lázaro Chil Siret
In the name of the Coordinating Council of the Christian Liberation Movement
Havana, August 30, 2007
—CITIZENS’ PETITION TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF PEOPLE’S POWER—
REQUEST FOR THE ABOLITION OF ELECTORAL LAW No. 72 AND
DISCUSSION AND APPROVAL OF A NEW ELECTORAL LAW
Mr. Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
President of the National Assembly of People’s Power
To the Delegates of the National Assembly of People’s Power
As Cuban citizens, supported by article 63 of the Constitution of the Republic, we present you this petition based on the following considerations and precedents:
1. Cuban citizens are not permitted to nominate candidates to be delegates to the Provincial Assembly or nominate candidates to the National Assembly of People’s Power. The reason for this is that Chapter Two of Title V of Electoral Law No. 72 stipulates that the Municipal Assemblies of the People’s Power “nominate” candidates in accordance with the proposals developed and presented by the Candidacy Commissions created for this purpose by the Electoral Law. Therefore, the only citizens allowed to be candidates are those who are proposed by the commissions and approved by the Municipal Assemblies. This practice is not in accord with Article 133 of the Constitution, which states that “citizens in full possession of political rights have the right to be elected, be they men or women.” Therefore, the establishment of the Candidacy Commissions that deny citizens their right to nominate and be nominated is an exclusionary practice, and in our judgment, it is unconstitutional.
2. Citizens may neither elect the delegates of the Provincial Assembly nor the members of the National Assembly of People’s Power given that article 92 of Law No. 72 establishes that “each Municipal Assembly nominates an equal number of candidates for delegates to the Provincial Assembly and for members of the National Assembly of People’s Power.” Given the wording of this law, it is obvious that there may only be one candidate, that is to say, one single candidate for each seat in the Provincial Assembly and in the National Assembly.
3. The Law does not permit the elector to choose between candidates to be his Delegate to the Provincial Assembly or his Member of the National Assembly, that is to say the person that will represent the electors from that specific district in the corresponding assembly. Article 71 of the Constitution states that “the National Assembly of People’s Power is comprised of members elected by a free, direct and secret vote by electors, in proportion and in accordance with the procedure established by the law.” But it is evident that Law No. 72 does not establish a procedure for citizens to choose a candidate, since they cannot elect a member from a choice of various candidates. Article 110 of the Electoral Law establishes that “in the election of the delegates of the Provincial Assemblies and members of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the elector may vote for the candidates that appear on the corresponding ballot.” Therefore, in reality, the law does not establish a procedure by which electors in each district may choose a delegate to represent them in the Provincial Assembly and a member to represent them in the National Assembly. The fact that the elector does not vote to elect his delegate in the Provincial Assembly and the National Assembly, but may vote for various candidates under the “united vote” concept, may give the appearance that there are various candidates. However, there is only one candidate for each seat in both the Provincial and National Assemblies. If in each corresponding district, as would be logical, the electors simply elected their delegate to the Provincial Assembly and their Member of the National Assembly then only one name would have to be appear on the ballot, that of the only candidate. The law hides this grave contradiction through the mirage of the united vote and the inconsistency that the elector may vote, at the same time, for all of the candidates that appear on their ballot.
4. What’s more, the law does not even establish a transparent process that permits citizens to confirm or reject candidates on the single-candidate ballots. Law No.72 does not stipulate that each candidate has to be approved by the majority of electors in order to be elected. The Electoral Law simply stipulates that in order to be elected a candidate requires fifty per cent plus one of the votes cast. But only positive votes are valid, this is to say, those that approve of one, many or all of the candidates. There is no voting booth where one can go to say “NO.” Therefore, if the majority of the electors do not wish to approve of the single candidates, they have no way of expressing their desire, and their votes are worthless. The single candidates may be elected by a minority of voters; even one voter could elect all the candidates because his single vote would constitute a majority of votes cast. Thus in addition to being unable to elect between candidates, voters are unable to reject the single candidates presented.
5. Article 125 of the Electoral Law states that “In the event that the requirements of the direct vote established by the Constitution of the Republic and this Law to elect delegates to the Provincial Assemblies or to elect members of the National Assembly of People’s Power are satisfied and subsequently vacant seats remain for whatever reason, the Council of State is empowered to choose between the following alternatives: (a) leaving the seats vacant until the next general elections, (b) assigning the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power, constituted as an electoral college, the function of electing the Provincial Assembly Delegate or the National Assembly of People’s Power Member, or (c) calling new elections.” Assigning the Council of State the power to leave the seat vacant or of assigning the task of electing the Provincial Assembly Delegate or National Assembly Member in question is to deny the electors of that district their sovereign right to choose their representative Delegate to the Provincial Assembly or Member of the National Assembly.
6. Article 93 of the Electoral Law declares that “in each municipality, up to fifty per cent of the total number of candidates for the position of Delegates to the Provincial Assembly and candidates for the position of Member of the National Assembly may be selected from among the Delegates to the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power.” In practice, this article of Law No. 72 reserves candidacies, and consequently seats, in the Provincial Assemblies and the National Assembly, for personalities and leaders who could not otherwise be nominated by the Municipal Assemblies. In effect, the article legalizes elitism.
7. Article 6 of the Electoral Law establishes that “in order to exercise the right to suffrage…all Cubans must be permanent residents in the country for a period of no less than two years before the elections.” This article is discriminatory and exclusionary as it denies Cuban citizens who reside permanently abroad their constitutional right to vote. This violates article 132 of the Constitution, which states that “All Cubans, both men and women, older than sixteen years of age, have the right to vote.”
1. On December 10, 1997, we presented a citizens petition to the National Assembly of People’s Power calling on it to revise and transform the Electoral Law, since this law does not abide by the constitution because it impedes citizens from nominating and electing candidates as delegates to the Provincial Assemblies and as members of the National Assembly of People’s Power.
2. On May 10, 2002, we presented a proposal for a bill entitled the Varela Project which was signed by 11,020 electors. The proposal contains the basis for a new Electoral law that does abide by the current Constitution and that guarantees the exercise of popular sovereignty.
3. On October 3, 2003, we presented the Varela Project once more to the National Assembly of People’s Power, with the signatures and personal information of an additional 14,384 electors.
WE REQUEST THE FOLLOWING OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF PEOPLE’S POWER:
1. That it immediately repeal the current Electoral Law, Law No. 72 of October 29, 1992.
2. That a new Electoral Law be approved that truly guarantees all Cuban citizens, without exclusion, their right to elect and be elected as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic.
3. That it stipulate that the Council of State call new general elections as soon as possible once the new electoral law is approved, and that these general elections be free and democratic.
4. That it change the laws to guarantee all citizens freedom of expression, respect for the diversity of opinion that exists in society, and access to the media by all citizens, regardless of their opinions.
Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas Minervo Lázaro Chil Siret
Peñón No. 221 entre Monasterio y Ayuntamiento Edif. 19 Apto. 1106,
Cerro, Ciudad de la Habana Rpto. Pastorita, Cienfuegos
CI: 52022900800 CI: 72030211546
Havana, August 30, 2007