Cuban assembly approves draft of new constitution

Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel, left, Cuban First Vice President Salvador Valdes Mesa, second left, and Cuban Vice President Ramiro Valdez, center

Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel, left, Cuban First Vice President Salvador Valdes Mesa, second left, and Cuban Vice President Ramiro Valdez, center

Cuba's former President Raul Castro, center, votes during a session to debate the draft of a new Constitution, at the Convention Palace in Havana, Cub

Cuba's former President Raul Castro, center, votes during a session to debate the draft of a new Constitution, at the Convention Palace in Havana, Cub

Members of the National Assembly attend a session to debate the draft of a new Constitution, at the Convention Palace in Havana, Cuba, Friday, Dec. 21

Members of the National Assembly attend a session to debate the draft of a new Constitution, at the Convention Palace in Havana, Cuba, Friday, Dec. 21

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba's National Assembly has approved an update of the country's constitution, the final step before a national referendum expected to approve the new charter in February.

The new constitution contains more continuity than change. It maintains Cuba as a centrally planned economy ruled by a single Communist Party, but recognizes private property for the first time and paves the way for a separate referendum on legalizing gay marriage.

It also creates the role of prime minister alongside the current president, as well as provincial governors.

Its true impact is expected to be seen only after the National Assembly approves a raft of changes to the civil and penal codes and electoral laws next year.