‘Overjoyed’ North Koreans vote in Parliament election

March 10, 2014 - 5:04:02 am
SEOUL: Almost all North Koreans cast their ballots yesterday in a pre-determined election for a rubber-stamp parliament — an exercise that doubles as a national head count and may offer clues to power shifts in Pyongyang.

All registered voters — except those who are currently abroad —took part in the nationwide elections for members of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), the state-run KCNA news agency said. 

Those who are ill or infirm and cannot travel to polling stations are casting votes at special “mobile ballot boxes,” it said.

“Overjoyed” voters rushed to polling stations across the country from early in the morning, it claimed, adding many danced and played music on the street in praise of the leader, Kim Jong-Un. 

The North’s state TV showed hundreds of people across the country clad in brightly-coloured traditional dresses dancing in circles on the street. Kim also cast his vote along with high-ranking army and party cadres.  

Apart from the physical casting of votes, there is nothing democratic about the ballot. The results are a foregone conclusion, with only one approved candidate standing for each of the 687 districts.

The isolated communist state has for decades boasted voter turnouts of nearly 100 percent for its “elections” in which an uncontested candidate wins unanimously at all times.    

It was the first election to the SPA under the leadership of Kim, who took over the reins of power on the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, in December 2011. And like his father before him, Kim stood as a candidate — in constituency number 111, Mount Paektu.

Koreans have traditionally attributed divine status to Mount Paektu and, according to the North’s official propaganda, Kim Jong-Il was born on its slopes.

TV footage showed hundreds of soldiers queuing up at a polling station in constituency number 111 and dancing in unison on the street to festive music.

Portraits of Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung — Jong-Un’s late grandfather and the nation’s founding president — were hung on the wall behind the ballot box. Soldiers deeply bowed to the portraits after casting their votes. “I gave the vote, the evidence of my loyalty, to our supreme leader comrade,” one soldier said in a TV interview. 

Elections are normally held every five years to the SPA, which only meets once or twice a year, mostly for a day-long session, to rubber-stamp budgets or other decisions made by the ruling Workers’ Party.

The last session in April 2013 adopted a special ordinance formalising the country’s position as a nuclear weapons state—a status that both South Korea and the United States have vowed not to recognise.