Castro dynasty bows out as Cubans elect new leaders
CUBANS have gone to the polls to select a new president - the first time in nearly 60 years that the office will not be occupied by a member of the Castro family.
More than eight million Cubans were expected to turn out, with the last of the votes being cast this morning. Voters will select members of the National Assembly of People's Power, who will go on to pick the country's next president next month.
Raul Castro, the country's leader since 2008, announced in 2013 that this would be his last five-year term as president.
It will be the first time since the 1959 revolution that someone other than Raul or his brother, Fidel, holds the office. Vice-President Miguel Díaz-Canel is widely viewed as a favourite for the role.
Mr Castro was expected to step down in February, but pushed the election back by two months following Hurricane Irma, which caused more than $A16.5 billion in damages across the island nation.
After stepping down, Mr Castro will continue to serve as head of the Communist Party - a job with almost as much power as the presidency.
The 612 Assembly members are elected for five-year terms and charged with selecting the Council of State, which consists of one president, one first vice-president, five vice-presidents, one secretary and 23 other members.
The National Assembly is also responsible for deciding on the constitutionality of laws, and making changes to the Constitution if necessary.
Cuba's elections are a multi-pronged process that start with the election of municipal representatives and end with the selection of the president. Voters went to the polls in September to elect their local representatives.
The candidates in the March 11 election were chosen by government-linked organisations, based on criteria such as their "merit, patriotism, ethical values and revolutionary history”.
Candidates need at least 50 per cent of the votes in their district to win. If the 50 per cent threshold is not met, the seat remains open unless the Council of State decides to hold another election.
Telesur reports that the country trained some 200,000 people to run the more than 24,000 polling stations this year. - INM