Cubans Vote Amid Talk of Transition

HAVANA -- Cubans voted in parliamentary elections on Sunday that could start a transition to a post-Castro government in Cuba after half a century of rule by the Communist revolutionary.

Even though he has not appeared in public for almost 18 months, ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro was on the slate of 614 uncontested candidates for 614 seats in the rubber-stamp National Assembly.

The assembly will hold its first session on Feb. 24, acting President Raul Castro said after voting early at a school near Havana's Revolution Square.

That meeting to approve the executive Council of State will confirm whether the elder Castro, 81, will continue as Cuba's head of state or be formally succeeded by his brother, 76, or a younger leader.

"We are electing a new parliament at a complicated time when we have to face different situations and big decisions, bit by bit," Raul Castro said.

"He is in good health. I know he has been writing a lot, up to four essays simultaneously. Considering that he is 81, Fidel is strong, healthy and an intellectual powerhouse," he said.

Fidel Castro, who has led Cuba since a 1959 revolution that created a communist state just 135 kilometers from the United States, hinted in December that he would not cling to power or stand in the way of a new generation.

The Cuban leader had to hand over the running of the country to his brother after emergency stomach surgery in July 2006. Since then, he has only been seen in video clips and photographs.