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N.K. holds local elections amid succession campaign

North Koreans voted in local elections Sunday as state media stepped up calls for loyalty to the ruling Workers’ Party and leader Kim Jong-il as the totalitarian leader has been trying to hand power over to his youngest son.

Kim cast his ballot at a polling station in Pyongyang, along with his heir-apparent son Kim Jong-un and a senior party official, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. Kim met with candidates at the station and asked them to sincerely carry out their duties, KCNA said.

About 28,000 deputies to local people’s assemblies are expected to be selected in Sunday’s vote, though the elections are considered a formality to rubber-stamp candidates hand-picked by the ruling party. In North Korean elections, turnout is usually near 100 percent and candidates are elected with absolute support.

Local elections are held every four years. About 27,390 deputies were elected in 2007.

Voting stations were crowded with colorfully dressed people even before polls opened, with percussion bands staging performances in a festive mood, KCNA said. As of noon, turnout was 84.66 percent, it said.

Pyongyang’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in an editorial that North Koreans should support candidates so as to display the country is united around the party.

It also said the country’s revolution has been “progressing at a high level since the historic convention” of the ruling party, referring to the Workers’ Party convention held in September last year where leader Kim’s youngest son, Jong-un, was elected to key party posts.

The convention marked the first time the North has unveiled the son as the heir-apparent to the family dynasty. The succession would mark communism’s second hereditary power transfer. The elder Kim inherited power from his father, the country’s founder Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994.

(Yonhap News)

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