Successful Constitution referendum demonstrates Cuban people’s firm solidarity

Thursday, 2019-02-28 11:13:47
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Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel prepares to vote during the referendum to approve the constitutional reform in Havana, Cuba, February 24, 2019. (Reuters)
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NDO – Cuba’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) has just released preliminary results of the referendum that took place on February 24. Accordingly, the new Constitution has been ratified by the majority of Cuban voters. The support for the historic legal document reflects the solidarity of the Cuban people, while opening a new era, with new development motivations for the “Freedom Island”.

In the 43 years since the current Constitution was established (in 1976), Cuba has gradually improved its supreme legal document system, and updated it in accordance with new trends in the context of unpredictable changes in the regional and the world situations. Joining millions of voters to cast ballots, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel affirmed that the draft of Cuba’s new Constitution is a modern legal document that shapes the rule of law socialist state and allows for the facilitation of necessary procedures and strong steps in the process of updating the country’s socio-economic model. The Cuban leader emphasised that the Constitution has been jointly built by the Cuban people, thus ensuring the rights of all people.

According to President of the NEC Alina Balseiro, nearly 7.85 million Cuban voters cast their ballots in the referendum on February 24, with 6.8 million people having voted to ratify the new Constitution. The ‘Yes’ votes represented 73.31% of the total registered voters nationwide, far exceeding the rate of 50% required for the approval of this legal document, as stipulated by the Cuban law. Official results will be announced within a week after the vote. The new Constitution will come into effect after the referendum results are published in the Official Gazette of the Cuban state. The NEC also said that the whole referendum process took place smoothly, with more than 425,000 state employees and collaborators (students) having engaged in guarding ballot boxes at the polling stations.

The referendum is an important step in the process of comprehensively reforming the Constitution in Cuba, which was agreed on at the sixth National Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (CPC) in 2011 and officially kick-started from the July 2018 session of Cuba’s ninth National Assembly. A special committee was formed, under the leadership of First Secretary of the CPC Raul Castro, aiming to prepare the content of the new Constitution draft. The Cuban parliament then conducted widespread consultations among the people. Within three months, over 1.1 million opinions had been contributed, by more than eight million people, in service of revision work before the National Assembly approved the final draft in December 2018. A special publication posting the entire final draft of the new Constitution has become the printed publication with the largest number of sales in the last ten years.

The draft new Constitution, including the introduction and 229 articles, is divided into 11 components, 24 chapters and 16 sections. In addition to reaffirming the goals and path of building socialism, and the maintenance of fundamental foundations of the socialist economic model, the draft offers many important changes, such as clearly defining the role of the Communist Party, declaring the Cuban state’s socialist rule of law, confirming the supremacy of the Constitution in the judicial system, setting new leadership positions and regulations on tenure and appointment age limits, giving additional autonomy for local administrative units, and supplementing many citizenship rights.

The new Constitution will pave the way for economic reforms towards building prosperous and sustainable socialism on the Caribbean island, recognise new economic sectors and propose the autonomy mechanism for state-owned enterprises. Previously, the large-scale economic reform process in Cuba was kick-started in the late 2000s, as the people were employed in more than 180 industries in the private sector. In 2012, regulations on long-term economic reforms were adopted.

Cuba celebrates the 60-year milestone of the successful 1959 revolution with the new Constitution. The eager engagement of millions of people and the successful, transparent and lawful referendum on the new Constitution have re-affirmed the firm solidarity of the Cuban people in continuing to strengthen and promote the power of the Cuban Revolution, towards a bright future on the resilient “Freedom Island”.