North Korea is holding its first parliamentary elections under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, giving outsiders a rare glimpse inside.
Thing is — the outcome is a foregone conclusion, and the ballots give clues about who is rising and falling in favor from the young leader. (Via ITN)
You see, elections for the country's rubber stamp parliament, the Supreme People's Assembly, consists of one candidate per district, nominated by the regime and approved by Kim.
North Koreans may cast a ballot against the selected candidate, but must walk to a special booth to do so. And if the country's previous elections tell us anything, it's that few, if any, have ever actually exercised that right.
In all official results since 1962, 100 percent of registered voters selected the regime-approved candidates for all 687 parliamentary seats. Since voting is mandated by law, that means theoretically all North Koreans approved the leadership — essentially making it the world's most popular government. (Via Al Jazeera)
While the elections don't necessarily indicate who is popular with the people, it does indicate who is in the good graces of Kim.
Analysts say this election, the first since 2009 and the first under Kim Jong Un, marks the final transition of a power overhaul under the young leader. (Via ABC)
The New York Times explains, since taking over as supreme ruler from his father in 2011: "Kim has engineered a series of personnel changes and political purges among the elite in a move that outside analysts said was aimed largely at eliminating potential challenges to his rule."
The most dramatic of those purges came last year when the regime executed North Korea's second-in-command, Kim's own uncle, after charging him with corruption and plotting to overthrow Kim. (Via Sky News)
A professor of Korean studies writes for Al Jazeera that the new parliament is likely to be filled with younger officials than previously, and explains fresh appointments will give outside analysts a hint at what Kim's policy goals may be.
"If we see more industrial managers among the newly elected members, this is usually a sign that more attention is being given to economic growth. Conversely, if more military officers are elected, this would indicate a renewed emphasis on defence." (Via Al Jazeera)
The election ritual also serves as a de facto census, helping officials to identify those defected or missing. Festivities are reportedly already underway in the streets of Pyongyang to celebrate the ruling party's electoral victory.