North Koreans head to the polls, but government decides who they vote for

Voters can choose yes or no on ballot paper listing a single candidate

Polling stations have opened in North Korea as voters elect a new national legislature – but there is only one candidate per district.

The vote for the Supreme People’s Assembly on Sunday is the first in five years and the first under leader Kim Jong Un.

The last elections were held in March 2009, when 687 deputies were elected to the assembly. Despite being the most powerful body under North Korea’s constitution, in reality it has little political power.

Voters are given a yes or no vote for a single candidate on their ballot and almost all choose yes.

The poll stations were opened amid a holiday atmosphere, with national flags displayed along the streets, women attired in traditional clothing, and dancing events held in parks, schools and riversides.

It is considered obligatory to vote in the authoritarian state and outside observers say elections provide an opportunity for the North Korean authorities to check up on the population and tighten control.

 

Hyon Byong Chol, the chairman of a preparatory committee for one of the sub-districts in the election, called the vote "meaningful" because it is the first under Kim Jong Un. 

"Through this election we will fully display the might of the single-hearted unity of our army and people who are firmly united behind our respected marshal," he said. 

The Supreme People’s Assembly usually runs five-year sessions, but often meets only once annually. In the interim its work is carried out by a smaller and more powerful body called the Presidium.

Kim Jong Un is himself a candidate. State media announced that his constituency is a remote mountain area on the border with China. Mount Paekdu is celebrated as the birthplace of Kim Jong Il in North Korea’s official history, but historians outside the country agree that he was born in the former Soviet Union.

Election results are expected to be announced on Monday.

The new parliament was expected to meet next month, but no date has been officially announced.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

Read more: North Korea election
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