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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 July 2007, 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK
Cuba sets date for municipal vote
By Michael Voss
BBC News, Havana

Raul Castro
Raul Castro has been in charge for nearly a year
Cuba's acting President, Raul Castro, has announced that municipal elections will be held on 21 October.

This marks the start of an electoral process which could clarify early next year whether his brother Fidel Castro will resume power as head of state.

Fidel Castro is currently convalescing from intestinal surgery.

Cuba's municipal and provincial bodies elect candidates for the National Assembly, which next March must decide who becomes the president of Cuba.

Local elections, are the one chance Cubans have to directly choose their representatives. Candidates must be nominated but in these polls, which are officially non-partisan, they do not have to be members of the Communist Party.

Smooth transition

It is almost a year since Fidel Castro handed temporary power to Raul before undergoing a series of intestinal operations.

It was the first time he had ceded control of the Caribbean island since he led the revolution in 1959.

So far it has been a smooth transition, and Western diplomats say that Raul Castro is firmly in control of day-to-day government, although there are few signs of any major political or economic initiatives.

Fidel Castro continues to recuperate. He has yet to appear in public but has returned to political life, writing regular newspaper columns and receiving foreign dignitaries.

The coming months will see whether Raul officially becomes President of Cuba, with Fidel staying on in the powerful but more discreet role of first secretary of the Communist Party.

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