Castro runs for parliamentary seat in Cuban-style vote

EL COBRE, Cuba (AP) — President Fidel Castro stood for election Sunday in parliamentary balloting the Cuban leader after calling for a referendum on the nation’s socialist system.
“Vote for the future of our country and of humanity!” Castro declared in a Dec. 29 speech promoting Sunday’s election for the 601-seat legislature.
Castro’s name was listed on the ballot in this eastern Cuban town, not far from Santiago de Cuba, the island’s eastern hub. And as he stepped behind a red curtain to fill out his ballot in a scene televised nationwide, thousands chanted and cheered in the streets outside.
Shortly before polls closed, election officials in many areas reported turnout of about 95 percent. Virtually all candidates were ensured of election, though full results were unlikely before today.
The election, Castro had noted before Sunday, was like no other in the world: There were no opposition candidates running for seats in the legislature, known as the National Assembly of People’s Power. The island’s 7.8 million eligible voters could choose some or all of the five candidates listed on the ballots in their districts.
The assembly usually meets briefly three times a year. It approves laws and is responsible for electing Cuba’s Cabinet, including Castro himself as president. Members serve for four years.
While Cubans in the streets often express frustration and sometimes criticism of government leaders, there has been little sign of dissent in recent elections.
In the weeks leading up to the election, Castro said that would demonstrate the unity of the Cuban people and send “a message to the world and to the illusions of imperialists and reactionaries.”
“We have to achieve the maximum possible united vote … for the revolution and the country.”