The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No choice but 3 victors in Cuba

Havana, Jan. 20 (Reuters): Communist Cuba declared the country, revolution and socialism victors today, after 97.6 per cent of registered voters participated in its one-party general election.

“More than 8 million voted. Overwhelming proof of popular support for the country, revolution and socialism,” headlined Granma, the Communist Party daily. Cuba has around 8.3 million registered voters.

Dissidents, viewed by the government as a fifth column working for the US, called the vote a farce, after calling on Cubans to boycott or spoil their ballots.

Voters had no choice of candidates, whose numbers were equal to the number of open seats — 609 in the National Assembly and 1,119 in provincial assemblies.

They checked a box for all, or voted for one or more, or none.

Final results, including how many ballots were spoiled or left blank, were to be announced late today. The new parliament is to meet in early February to elect a Council of State, which designates the President. President Fidel Castro, 76, and in power since the 1959 revolution, was expected to be chosen for another five-year term.

Havana calls the typical 98 per cent turnout proof of huge support for the government, but dissidents say it reflects voters’ fears of ostracism if they fail to participate.

“Here there is a lot of fear, they scare the people into going to the polls,” Vladimiro Roca, released last year after five years in prison for opposition activity, told Reuters.

Castro referred to the US after voting yesterday, declaring: “This is a response to the empire in its efforts to destroy the revolution.”

He defended the system, saying candidate lists were put together by popular organisations, not the country’s only legal political organisation, the Communist Party.

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