Voting has taken place in North Korea in what is being dubbed the world’s most pointless election.
The local elections are the first to be held in the communist dictatorship since Kim Jong-Un came to power in 2011.
But quite how democratic the elections are is not difficult to decipher.
Each ballot paper lists only one candidate in each district, with the decision over who is selected closely overseen by Kim’s party, the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland.
Turnout is likely to be high – but that’s because if you are found not have taken part “you and your family are in trouble”, according to NK News.
The last local elections, in 2011, saw a recorded turnout of 99.7 per cent, and a 100 per cent approval rate for candidates, from an electorate spanning 24.9million citizens. The state news agency said those who did not vote were only unable to do so because they had been on the high seas or abroad.
In 2013, Transparency International ranked the hermit state the most corrupt country in the world.
In last year’s elections for the country’s Supreme Assembly, a 100 per cent turnout was recorded and a 100 per cent approval given for the government’s policies, according to the news agency.
North Korea's worst human rights abuses
North Korea's worst human rights abuses
A UN report said that policies leading to mass starvation in North Korea amounted to crimes against humanity. Deaths peaked during the 1990s North Korean famine.
Defence minister Hyon Yong Chol is believed to be the latest official executed after falling foul of Kim Jong-un. As well as gruesome public executions, thousands of people have been killed in state 'purges' and for alleged anti-state crimes
Torture is prevalent in prison camps, as well as in police and security service custody.
4/11 Freedom of religion
American missionary Kenneth Bae was one of the many people detained after trying to practice their religion. The DPRK Constitution claims to protect freedom of religion but not if it as alleged of being used a a pretext for 'drawing in foreign forces or for harming the state and social order'. Christianity is frequently considered a political crime
5/11 Freedom of expression
All media is tightly-state controlled and expressing facts of opinions critical of the government or Juche ideology can lead to arrest and imprisonment. As well as being under extensive surveillance, people are encouraged to 'inform' on friends and neighbours
6/11 Freedom of thought
A UN report found that the 'DPRK operates an all-encompassing indoctrination machine which takes root from childhood to propagate an official personality cult and to manufacture absolute obedience to the Supreme Leader, effectively to the exclusion of any independent thought from the official ideology and state propaganda'
7/11 Forced labour
Prisoners are subjected to forced labour in camps, including children as young as five. Some workers are also reportedly being sent abroad to fund the government's projects
8/11 Sexual discrimination
Although women are permitted to serve in the military, their role is restrained by the Juche ideology and the UN reports that 'discrimination against women remains pervasive in all aspects of society'
9/11 Freedom of movement
Freedom of movement is severely restricted within North Korea and very few citizens are allowed to leave the country. Immigrants found in China can be forcible repatriated and punished on their return. The right for foreigners to enter is also severely restricted.
10/11 Prison camps
Many of the worst abuses reported take place at prison camps, some specifically for political crimes. The camps officially do not exist but have been photographed using satellite. Inmates are 'forcibly disappeared' and usually imprisoned until death
11/11 Reproductive rights
Forced abortions have been reported for imprisoned women, often after being raped by guards. Mothers and babies frequently die in childbirth because of a lack of adequate care, often delivering babies unaided at home.
Daniel Pinkston, an analyst with The International Crisis Group in Seoul, says holding the election informs the government of any possible defectors or rebels.
“It is a method of social control that enables the authorities there to confirm the whereabouts of its citizens and to identify any who are not where they are meant to be,” he told The Telegraph.
North Koreans have been asked to donate beautiful valuables to decorate voting booths for today’s vote, the UPI news agency reports.
While students as young as nine are understood to have been required to volunteer for campaigning activities from morning to evening, despite the result being seen as a foregone conclusion.
The pro-Pyongyang Choson Sinbo in Japan has reported that all of North Korea has been "stirred up" ahead of today’s voting and activities which have been occurring at “full throttle” are “elevating the mood of the election”.
Ahead of last year’s elections to the Supreme Assembly, reports that the ballot was not held in secret and opposing votes had to be placed in separate boxes, indicating dissenters, surfaced.
Abstaining or voting ‘no’ are believed to be acts of treason, as is using a red pen to mark the ballot box which is taken to suggest a ‘no’ vote.
The same family has ruled North Korea since it was established as the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea in 1948 by Kim Jong-Un’s grandfather, Kim Il-Sung.
Kim Il-Sung ruled until his death in 1994, when his role was inherited by his son, Kim Jong-Il, who was the country’s leader until he died in 2011.
The results of today’s election, held every four years to elect provincial governors, mayors and local representatives, are expected to be announced early next week.Reuse content