Cuba’s dissident Oswaldo Payá recently handed in a petition to repeal Cuba’s existing electoral law and to replace it by a truly democratic one. The petition states: “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to the offices of the National Assembly of People’s Power, which calls for the Electoral Law, Law No. 72, to be repealed and for a new electoral law to be approved that will guarantee the right of Cuban citizens to elect and be elected.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 the 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
The petition says further: “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 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 in 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 minds 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”.
In the name of the Coordinating Council of the Christian Liberation Movement.
Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas
ARCO supports Oswaldo Payá in his efforts to bring about peaceful change in Cuba.