NATIONAL

North Korea holds rubber-stamp election to determine Assembly representatives

By Jo He-rim
  • Published : Mar 10, 2019 - 17:16
  • Updated : Mar 10, 2019 - 18:11

North Korea held a national election on Sunday for its Supreme People’s Assembly, a rubber-stamp event thought to strengthen the solidarity of its communist regime.

The North elects its legislators every five years in events similar to general elections for lawmakers here. But each constituency has a sole candidate and voters can only vote for or against. 

An electoral worker shows a ballot during the election at a polling station in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sunday. (AP-Yonhap)

The Supreme People’s Assembly is one of the most powerful governing bodies in the North. Under the North Korean constitution, it holds legislative power and manages the budget and personnel affairs of the nation’s state-run institutions. But given the standing of the ruling Workers’ Party, the role of the legislature appears limited.

Still, pundits view the election as a way to reinforce the unity and authority of the communist state.

On Saturday, North Korea’s state-run newspaper the Rodong Sinmun reported that Kim had stressed the importance of economic development, breaking his silence for the first time since his summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi in February, in which the two leaders failed to strike an accord on denuclearization or the lifting of economic sanctions.

“Having all the people eat white rice and meat soup, dressed in silk clothing and living in nice houses, was the lifetime yearning of the former leaders,” Kim was quoted as saying in the letter he sent to a Workers’ Party event on Wednesday.

“Today, there is nothing more urgent than for the party to achieve economic development and improve the people’s livelihoods.”

The state-run newspaper also published a report Sunday encouraging people to participate in the vote, describing an excited holiday mood in the country.

“The election is taking place at a very meaningful time in our evolutionary development,” the newspaper said. Under the wise leader of our great party, our Republic’s status and strength have been reinforced and the goal of building a strong socialist country has entered a historic phase.”

The state-run Korea Central News Agency highlighted the importance of the occasion, saying the people should “display the solidity and invincibility of the socialist system in which the leader, the party and the masses form a harmonious whole.”

Voters queue to cast their ballots at the '3.26 Pyongyang Cable Factory' during voting for the Supreme People's Assembly elections, in Pyongyang on Sunday. (AFP-Yonhap)

It is the second election under Kim Jong-un, the first having taken place in March 2014.

In the 2014 election, 687 legislators were elected, replacing about 55 percent of the Supreme People’s Assembly, according to data from the Unification Ministry here. The KCNA reported that the turnout in 2014 was 99.97 percent, and 100 percent of the votes were in favor of listed candidates.

Kim was elected in 2014 as the representative for the Baektusan constituency. The mountain is spiritually significant to North Koreans and the Kim family.

It has not been revealed which constituency the North Korean leader bid for this year.

North Koreans over 17 are eligible to vote. The polls open at 9 a.m. and close at 6 p.m.

The Supreme People’s Assembly is likely to convene its first plenary session early next month and to discuss personnel reform for the cabinet.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)