Cuban lawmakers convened on Wednesday to appoint a new president for the next five years, at a time of social and economic crisis near unprecendented since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.
Incumbent Miguel Diaz-Canel, leader of the Communist Party – the country’s only recognised political movement – is widely expected to be re-elected in a National Assembly vote later in the day-long session that will also choose the new heads of parliament.
His 91-year-old predecessor Raul Castro, the late Fidel’s brother and also a lawmaker, was present for the morning session, which was broadcast on state-run television. Dressed in drab olive military garb, he vigorously shook hands with fellow legislators.
Lawmakers and the newly elected leaders will face daunting challenges during their coming five-year term.
Inflation has soared and tourism has floundered since the coronavirus pandemic, and long lines for fuel, medicine and food have raised tensions, fanning unrest that led to the largest protests in decades in July 2021.
Hundreds of thousands have migrated off the Caribbean island in the past year, fleeing economic ruin.
Candidates for president and legislative leaders were proposed in secret by lawmakers prior to Wednesday’s session, then vetted by a National Candidacy Commission. The finalists are presented for a vote of the full assembly.
The 470 lawmakers slated to vote were elected on March 26 in a popular ballot with no opposition candidates.
The newly elected president is scheduled to address the nation later in the day.