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“It is a different concept: No delegate represents any political interest, only society itself.”

While the Communist Party’s power and influence are enormous, candidates don’t have to be party members.

But those who don’t usually come from allied groups such as the Federation of Cuban Women and the neighborhood-watch Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.

The nomination assemblies also see heated debate and criticisms about local problems such as slow police response, poor water supply and garbage pickup or unauthorized vending stands that block sidewalks.

But it is rare, almost unheard of, for a candidate to be nominated against the party’s wishes, and there’s no real electoral threat to the country’s rulers. There are no direct elections for the presidency or for Communist Party leadership posts, which critics say hold real power in the country.