Castro: Election reaffirms Cuban system
January 11, 1998
Castro votes Sunday
Web posted at: 9:33 p.m. EST (0233 GMT)
HAVANA (CNN) -- In a ballot hailed by President Fidel Castro as a reaffirmation of Cuba's communist system, voters went to the polls Sunday to choose members of national and provincial assemblies.
"It's the world that's changing, not Cuba," said Castro, after casting his vote in El Cobre, in the island's eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, where he was standing for election. "On the contrary, (Cuba) is reaffirming its position, its ideals, its objectives."
The results of the election, expected to be announced Monday, are not in doubt. While not all of the candidates were members of the Communist Party, all support the government's policies and there were no known opponents to Castro on the candidates' lists voters were asked to endorse.
But worried about possible voter apathy, the government had staged an extensive campaign to ensure a big turnout. Party officials and members of neighborhood committees made
house-to-house calls to persuade people to vote.
The campaign apparently worked, as election officials said at least 7.6 million of the island's 7.8 million eligible voters took part in the elections.
International diplomats said the government wanted to use the elections to show national unity and patriotism prior to the upcoming visit by Pope John Paul II, which will turn the world's spotlight on one of the world's last remaining communist states.
In a short speech to the crowd outside the polling station where he voted, Castro said the election demonstrated the resilience of the country's political system.
"Nothing can defeat us, not even death," he said.
Responding to criticism about the lack of choice in the ballot, Cuban officials have contrasted their elections with those in the United States and other countries, saying the latter are divisive and exclude the poor due to the influence of campaign money.
To underscore that argument, Cuban state television Saturday night aired "The Candidate," a movie starring Robert Redford about an idealistic young American politician corrupted by the campaign process.