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Cubans Vote in One-Party Elections


Cuba's Fidel Castro is standing for re-election Sunday in one-party parliamentary elections, despite health problems that have kept him out of public view for more than a year. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington.

More than eight million Cubans are eligible to cast ballots to select members of Cuba's Communist Party-controlled National Assembly. Fidel Castro, 81, is on the ballot, and even though he ceded presidential power to his younger brother, Raul, 76, in 2006, the elder Castro remains head of Cuba's supreme governing body, the Council of State.

Cuba's ailing "Maximum Leader" is one of more than 600 uncontested candidates for what is regarded as a rubber-stamp legislature. Voters may either endorse the candidates with a check mark in the appropriate box, or leave the box blank for any candidate they do not support. After the election, the assembly has 45 days to decide which of their members will form a new Council of State.

Cuban authorities have closely guarded Mr. Castro's health status as a state secret since he underwent emergency gastro-intestinal surgery a year and a half ago. Since then, video clips and photographs have been released of Mr. Castro meeting with various foreign leaders - most recently Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Mr. Castro has also written a series of essays and messages to the Cuban people, which have been widely-disseminated by the country's state-owned media.

Many Cuba watchers believe Mr. Castro is unlikely to resume control of day-to-day government operations. Already, he has indicated he will not block younger people from taking control. Whether he remains the nominal head of state will likely be known by March.

Since temporarily taking the reins of power, Raul Castro has sought to engage Cubans on ways to boost the island's economy and raise living standards.