HAVANA, Cuba - After the Cuban government’s vigorous campaign in favor of a new draft of the Cuban Constitution, the country’s electoral commission announced on Monday that the greater majory of voters approved it.
The commission reported about 7.8 million Cuban voters, an estimated 84.4 percent of the Cuban electorate, participated in the referendum. Alina Balseiro, the president of the electoral commission, said nearly 87 percent of those voters, about 6.8 million Cubans, chose to update the 1976 constitution with the 2018 draft that the National Assembly approved.
Balseiro reported 706,400 voters, about 9 percent of the voters, decided they did not want to update the constitution, and 198,674 voters, about 2.5 percent of the voters, chose to leave their ballots blank. Balseiro also reported 127,100 ballots were annulled and said the information was preliminary, and she expected the data on voter turnout to later indicate higher voter participation.
Cuban officials also say the process was designed to be inclusive. From August to November, government officials say they held more than 130,000 public forums. The government’s propaganda was everywhere, from social media to the government-controlled television programing to buses and buildings.
Activists who want to abolish the single-party system have reported incidents of persecution. The most boisterous opposition is coming from religious conservatives who fear that the new constitution is paving the way for same-sex marriage to be legal in Cuba.
The evangelic community has been following the process since it began in July of last year with the National Assembly’s debate and the release of the first draft of the proposed constitution.
Under the newly approved constitution, the Communist Party remains in control and assures that the judicial and legislative branches support a centrally controlled economic system. The constitution updates some criminal laws such as guaranteeing a defendants' right to have access to an attorney.
Here is what changes with the new constitution:
- Cuba recognizes the market, private sector and private property. ‘
- Presidential terms are limited to two five-year terms.
- The president has to be age 60 or under to be eligible to serve.
- Cuba will have a prime minister.
- The judicial system will recognize habeas corpus and the civilian’s right to legal representation.
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