North Korea goes to polls to rubberstamp Parliament line-up

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) – Millions of North Korean voters, including leader Kim Jong-un, went to the polls yesterday to elect a new line-up of roughly 700 members for the next session of the national legislature, though the vote was more of an endorsement than a competitive contest.

Voters were presented with just one state-sanctioned candidate per seat and cast their ballots not to select but rather to show their approval or, at least theoretically, disapproval of that candidate.

The elections, last held in 2014, are for the entire Supreme People’s Assembly, which on paper is the highest organ of power in North Korea. Its delegates come from all over the country and all walks of life. The candidates are selected by the ruling Korean Workers’ Party and a couple of other smaller coalition parties that have seats in the assembly.

Kim, fresh off his trip to Hanoi for his second summit with United States (US) President Donald Trump, is a member of the assembly, though his power rests in his complete control over the ruling party, government and military. State media showed footage of him casting his vote at a polling centre at Pyongyang’s Kim Chaek University of Technology.

As was the custom in the Soviet Union and other communist countries, turnout is generally reported at 99 per cent or higher. Voting is generally regarded as a duty and responsibility. Simply staying at home is not an option.

People line up to vote during the election at a polling station in Pyongyang, North Korea yesterday. – AP

“I’m very proud to be voting for the first time,” said 19-year-old university student Kim Ju Gyong, who cast her vote yesterday morning at the Pyongyang Primary School No 4 polling station. “I feel happy to be a citizen and I want to do my best for the future of my country.”

Under North Korean law, citizens can vote from the age of 17.

Voting began at around 10am depending on the location and continued until late evening. Voters showed election officials their ID cards to receive their ballot with the sole candidate’s name on it, which they cast in a private booth. If they approve, they simply put the ballot in the box. If they don’t approve, they cross the name out and put it in the same box.

But one official told The AP that basically never happens.

“No one votes against the candidate,” said Chairman of an election committee Jin Ki Chol supervising a polling station at a cable factory in central Pyongyang.

Election days have a festive mood. Bands play music as voters wait in line, and there is group dancing for those who have already finished.