Cuban voters have approved a new constitution cementing Communist Party power. The constitution also implements minor social and economic changes.
Cubans overwhelmingly approved a new constitution that preserves a one-party socialist state while implementing modest economic and social reforms, the electoral commission announced Monday.
More than 86 percent of voters backed the changes in Sunday’s referendum, while nine percent opposed. Around four percent of ballots were declared invalid. Electoral authorities said 84 percent of 8.7 million eligible voters cast ballots.
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"The constitution has been ratified by the majority of citizens," electoral commission president Alina Balseiro told a news conference.
The constitution entrenches socialism's "irrevocable" role and replaces the 1976 constitution, which had passed with 97.7 percent support.
The new constitution:
There are also references to gender identity that could pave the way for gay marriage, and the right to legal representation upon arrest and habeas corpus.
Since 1959, Cuba has been run first under revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, then by his brother Raul and, since last year, by Miguel Diaz-Canel, the first leader to be born after the revolution.
The government had lobbied heavily for a “yes” vote, labelling opponents as counterrevolutionaries and enemies of the state
It was helped by the near monopoly over the media and information. A simple majority was needed for the changes to pass.
Opponents argued the constitution perpetuates an oppressive regime and some religious groups criticized it due to provisions that eliminate a requirement for marriage to be only between a man and woman.
cw/jm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)