Last month I linked to a Monkey Cage blog post by James Loxton, a lecturer at the University of Sydney, on authoritarian successor parties. He also has a post up at the LSE's Democratic Audit blog pondering the future role of the Cuban Communist Party.
Most relevant for Cuba, ASPs have been especially successful in the post-communist world and Latin America, exceeding in these regions the (already high) global average.
In the post-communist world, ASPs have been prominent actors in 16 of 19 new democracies (84 percent), and returned to power in 14 of them (74 percent). In Latin America, ASPs have been prominent actors in 11 of 15 new democracies (73 percent), and returned to power in 9 of them (60 percent).
As a communist regime in a Latin American country, this bodes well for the Communist Party of Cuba. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Latin American country whose former authoritarian regime most resembled Cuba’s—Nicaragua—produced a strong ASP that was elected back into office in 2006.
He also gets at the point that the nature of the transition matters a lot. If the regime falls apart, the brand will be badly tarnished. For the Nicaraguan case to be truly instructive, it would need to accept elections. One could easily argue that if Daniel Ortega had held out and refused elections, he might be in power now. Even if you lose the initial election, you're still a player and your brand is intact.
It's very hard to see this type of transition happening while Raúl or Fidel are alive, but after that it's wide open.