( dpa )- Cuba's electoral process on Sunday was not expected to deliver surprises since there were the same number of candidates as seats in the country's National Assembly.
But it did bring one crucial piece of information: the date the communist island's new government is to be established.
"It will be on February 24," acting Cuban leader, Raul Castro, said after casting his ballot.
On that day, the National Assembly - Cuba's unicameral legislature - is expected to elect from among its 614 members the 31 members of the Council of State, whose president is both the country's head of state and head of government.
This process will finally reveal, after a 17-month interim government full of uncertainty about the Cuban leadership, what role each official will take on, in the light of the poor health of President Fidel Castro, 81.
Ahead of the official results in Sunday's election, which according to preliminary data registered a turnout of more than 95 per cent of the voters, there is little doubt that the 614 candidates will have obtained the 614 seats they were seeking.
Among them once again is Fidel Castro.
Recovering from an intestinal problem, which has never been disclosed and which forced him to temporarily give up power to his brother, Raul, in July 2006, the Cuban leader has declined to be precise regarding his plans.
In recent weeks, he said he does not intend to "cling on" to power and that he lacks the "physical ability" to appear in public. And yet Fidel Castro's candidacy opens the door in case he wants to be head of state once again, a position he has held since it was created in 1976.
Indeed, Fidel Castro has not once said he was retiring.
On Sunday, Cuban authorities insisted that they will back the commander-in-chief if he decided to remain in the race for the country's leadership.
On Monday, on the street, there were also few doubts that Castro would stay on the job despite his weak health and his age.
"All we want if Fidel to remain president and socialism to persist here," Ernesto, a chauffeur who defined himself as a Marxist- Leninist, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa .
"He has always been president, he will always remain the leader," Juan, a street sweeper, said.
Just in case, however, Juan stressed that "if it is not Fidel, it will be Raul."
More pessimistic, the Cuban opposition basically agreed.
"Fidel is going to remain president until he dies, he will keep making decisions. I do not have the slightest doubt that everything is going to stay the same," said Martha Beatriz Roque , spokeswoman for the Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society (APSC).
Miriam Leiva , of the Ladies in White, also had few doubts.
"Fidel Castro will remain the main leader in Cuba for as long as he exists, but I hold the hope that the new Assembly and the new Council of State start to adopt now the changes that Cuba needs, which I hope will not only be economic," she said.
Indeed, it is not just Fidel Castro's future which is at stake on February 24.
Several analysts agree that there is great "expectation" among the Cuban people over possible "structural changes" that Raul Castro announced in a speech on July 26, 2007 and which many Cubans also demanded in popular assemblies held in recent months across the country. However, there was little immediate sign of these changes.
On Sunday, the interim leader stressed the "importance" of choosing a new legislature "in a complex period," in which Cuba will have to face "different situations and great decisions, little by little."
Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque also stressed the importance of the task at hand for newly-elected legislators.
"It will have to face the adoption of important decisions, laws that make socialism stronger in our homeland, that rectify many of the questions that were identified in Comrade Raul's speech on July 26 and in the (outgoing) National Assembly," Perez Roque said.
Dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe said "even high government officials have realized" that there is "increased consciousness of national problems" in Cuba.
For Espinosa Chepe , whether or not Fidel Castro heads the new government, the executive will have two options.
"It either makes changes, economic transformations, an increase in efficiency and productivity, or the country enters a period of instability," the dissident said.
Espinosa Chepe noted that if the government chooses the latter, the population would "believe that all those arguments put forward by Raul Castro were a distraction manoeuvre ," which he said could have consequences that "could be really deplorable for all Cubans."