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North Korea elections: Zero per cent drama, 100 per cent mandatory

Last Updated: Friday, March 7, 2014 - 23:57

Tokyo: North Korean voters will make a choice Sunday when they elect a new national legislature, but not for a candidate. The ruling elite have already done that for them, and there`s only one per district.

They get to vote "yes" or "no." Virtually all pick "yes." One thing they don`t get to decide is whether to bother voting. Going to the polls is expected of all eligible voters, which effectively makes North Korean elections a powerful tool for checking up on the people.

For outsiders trying to figure out what`s going on in North Korean politics, Sunday`s elections for the Supreme People`s Assembly may shed some light on what personalities are currently in favor and likely to dominate in the years ahead. For North Korean authorities, the elections provide both a veneer of democracy and a means of monitoring the whereabouts and loyalties of average citizens.

Colorful posters urging citizens to go to the polls line the streets in Pyongyang and other cities.

Along with nearly 700 other `deputies" expected to be seated in the new assembly, supreme leader Kim Jong Un himself has announced his candidacy, in District 111 on sacred Mount Paekdu.
Official turnout rates in North Korean elections are generally reported at over 99 per cent, a practice inspired by the tradition of Stalin`s Soviet Union. Sunday`s will likely be the same.

Fictitious as that may sound, Michael Madden, editor of the NK Leadership Watch website and a contributor to the 38 North news bulletin, said it reflects one reason the autocratic North has elections at all: They provide "the most comprehensive assessment of the population."

Mustering the nation every so often is a chance for the authorities to hone their mobilization skills, check up on the efficiency of local leaders and get a snapshot of internal movements.

"The DPRK is very good about mobilizing the population for events," Madden said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People`s Republic of Korea. He said legislative elections "are celebratory events with various activities. According to various North Korean migrants and defectors, it is very difficult for a voter to get a hardship dispensation from participating."

First Published: Friday, March 7, 2014 - 23:57

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