After he became premier on 16 February 1959, Fidel Castro was the effective source of governmental power. The juridical basis for this power rested on the Fundamental Law of the Revolution, which was promulgated on 8 February 1959 and was based on Cuba's 1940 constitution. To regularize government functions, a 10-member Executive Committee, with Castro as premier, was formed on 24 November 1972.
A new constitution, first published on 10 April 1975, then approved by the first congress of the Cuban Communist party in December, and ratified by a 97.7% vote in a special referendum in February 1976, established the National Assembly of People's Power as the supreme state organ. The deputies, originally elected by municipal assemblies and directly elected in national elections since 1993, serve five-year terms. The National Assembly elects the Council of State, whose president is both head of state and head of government. There are six vice presidents in the Council of State, and 23 other members.
In January 2003, the third direct election to the National Assembly took place; all 601 candidates approved by the Communist Party received more than the required 50% of the vote necessary for election to the Assembly. One month later, the Assembly reelected Castro as president of the state council. He remains the key figure in domestic and foreign policy making. The constitution recognizes the Communist party as the "highest leading force of the society and of the state," which effectively outlaws other political parties.
Suffrage is universal for citizens age 16 and over, excluding those who have applied for permanent emigration.