Communist-run Cuba passed a new electoral law on Saturday that restructures governance including creating the role of prime minister and provincial governors while retaining the one-party system.
The law, which enacts changes already announced in the new constitution and was passed unanimously by the national assembly, aims to lighten the load on single figureheads such as the president and boost policy execution.
Some Cubans wish the political reform under Miguel Diaz-Canel, who took the presidency from Raul Castro last year, had gone further in light of Cuba’s social and economic opening over the last decade.
It should, for example, have abolished the Communist Party-controlled commissions that select the candidates for the national assembly elections, they say.
“It’s important citizens feel they are choosing between several candidates and are not just ratifying names that have been selected previously,” said Carlos Rodriguez, a bus driver in Havana.
Diaz-Canel however has signaled the presidential handover does not mean sweeping political change. He has, for example, used the hashtag #SomosContinuidad (#WeAreContinuity) since launching his twitter account last year.
Cuba has long argued its system it more democratic than western ones as it is not driven by parties funded by lobbies seeking to push their specific interests.
Half of the national assembly’s lawmakers must be municipal delegates who are directly elected at neighborhood meetings in elections where campaigning is banned.
The rest are chosen by commissions composed of mass organizations, such as the trade union federation.
“Real democracy is socialist, which is why I approve this law which synthesizes the thoughts of our Commander in Chief, (The late) Fidel Castro,” said lawmaker Miguel Barnet.
The new law streamlines governance by reducing the number of National Assembly lawmakers to 474 from an unwieldy 605, to be implemented at the next elections in 2024.
Some analysts had expected the assembly to shrink even further in order to fit into the newly restored Capitol, an imposing neoclassical gem previously shunned as a symbol of U.S. imperialism.
It also replaces provincial assemblies with councils made up of municipal leaders and led by governors.
Moreover the law stipulates that the president presides over the Republic rather than the Council of State and Council of Ministers.
The assembly is set to elect the president under this new system in October, national assembly head Esteban Lazo said last month, with Diaz-Canel widely expected to remain in this position.