Two Cuban dissidents concede defeat in local elections

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Raul Castro votes in local elections in Cuba with supporters April 2015Image source, EPA
Image caption,
President Raul Castro (R) took part in elections to choose local councillors

The first opposition candidates to stand in a Cuban election for decades have conceded defeat.

Hildebrando Chaviano is an independent journalist and lawyer, and Yuniel Lopez a member of an outlawed political party, the Independent and Democratic Cuba Party.

The two men were standing for places on local councils in Havana.

Their election would have been unprecedented under Cuba's current single-party electoral system.

Both Mr Chaviano and Mr Lopez said they had fallen too far behind in the count for a chance of victory.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Dissident Hilderbrando Chaviano was standing in the first local elections after a thaw in US Cuba relations
Image source, AP
Image caption,
Yuniel Lopez said it was clear he had not won enough votes in the main round of voting in municipal elections.

After advancing past the first round, they told foreign press agencies they thought the government had been caught off guard by the strength of their support.

Like half of the 27,000 candidates for municipal posts, the two were selected by a show of hands in a local neighbourhood meeting. The final round of the elections is by secret vote - there is no campaigning.

"We have to take advantage of the moment," Mr Chaviano said. "No-one from the government was expecting us to be nominated and even less that we would become candidates."

"Some people say that there is fear in Cuba, and I say that people have lost their fear," said Mr Lopez.

Both men had been running for seats on municipal assemblies that oversee local matters that include water supplies, street repairs and insect fumigation.

Municipal assemblies also nominate candidates for half the representatives on provincial assemblies.

The provincial assemblies then nominate candidates for half the members of the National Assembly, which elects Cuba's ruling Council of State, which in turn elects the president.

The other half of the candidates at municipal and provincial level are selected by a government electoral commission, ensuring continued Communist Party control.

President Raul Castro began introducing gradual but wide-ranging economic reforms in 2010.

He also promised changes to the electoral system, but has yet to provide details.

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