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Government, Legislature

political platform, Direct elections, Politburo, assembly members, petty crime

The 1976 constitution instituted a concept known as the People’s Power construct, a structure designed to allow Cuban citizens greater participation in government policy-making decisions. The People’s Power consists of assemblies that administer government and pass laws. These assemblies exist at municipal, provincial, and national levels. Delegates are nominated and elected first at the municipal level. They need not be members of the PCC. However, the party must approve all candidates, and individuals may not run on a political platform. Instead, voters select their delegate from brief biographies and from personal acquaintance with the person. The 169 municipal assemblies allocate funds for maintenance of municipal facilities and hear cases involving household disputes and petty crime. Since 1992 smaller communities with populations of 30,000 or more elect delegates to people’s councils. There were 102 such councils in 1995. Members of the municipal assemblies and the people’s councils elect representatives to their provincial assemblies from their membership.

Each of Cuba’s 14 provinces has its own assembly. Provincial assemblies oversee transportation and communication systems throughout the island and recommend legislation regarding interstate crime and allocations of resources for development. From their own membership, provincial delegates nominate and elect representatives to the 589-member National Assembly of People’s Power. In 1992 the public approved a referendum calling for assembly members to be elected directly by the people. Direct elections took place in 1993 and 1998. In both elections, only candidates belonging to the PCC were allowed to run.

The National Assembly votes on legislation presented by the PCC, and every four years it elects the president of the country. It occasionally debates the wisdom of legislation, but it has never failed to approve the central government’s proposals. When the National Assembly is in recess, which is most of the year, the Council of State has legislative powers.

Legislation can originate in various governmental branches. The president may decree laws that are in effect until they are accepted or rejected by the National Assembly. The Politburo and Central Committee can write legislation that is submitted to the National Assembly. And the courts can suggest legal reforms and interpretations to be enacted by the Assembly.

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