From Voice of America:
Cuba’s legislature began the process Wednesday of electing the country’s first president outside the Castro family for the first time in nearly 60 years.
In an unusual two-day procedure, the Cuban National Assembly will elect a new president on Wednesday and announce the replacement for Raul Castro on Thursday. The legislature has generally elected the president and made the announcement the same day. The votes are almost always done in secrecy, in keeping with the will of the country’s top leadership.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the transition is “of great concern” to the Trump administration because it is not democratic.
“We would like citizens to be able to have a say in their political outcomes and this certainly does not seem like regular folks will have a say. They basically don’t have a real and meaningful choice because it’s not a democratic process.”
Nauert said the administration would like to see “a more free and democratic Cuba” but is “not overly optimistic.”
The new president will succeed 86-year-old Raul Castro, who is resigning after two five-year terms. His brother Fidel served as prime minister and president after the armed Cuban Revolution in 1959 until he became ill in 2006.
The new president is widely expected to be 57-year-old First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who appears to be socially liberal and is considered an acceptable successor to the retiring elderly leaders who fought in the revolution.
Congress will select leaders of the legislature before voting for the president and other members of the Council of State, Cuba’s top government body.
The process will usher in a new group of younger leaders who face pressure to bring greater prosperity to the country and revitalize its economy, which is smaller than it was in 1985 when it was supported by the former Soviet Union.
While the assembly promotes younger leaders, Castro and other older revolutionaries are expected to retain their power due to their hold on the Communist Party.