Rarely mentioning dissident votes in prior elections, North Korea did so on Tuesday. Analysts, however, wrote it off as a ploy to project a picture of a normal society rather than a real expansion of liberties in the repressive regime.
Leader Kim Jong Un of the isolated North is accused of using a system of repression and patronage to hold onto ultimate power, resulting in one of the most tightly regulated nations in the world. The North’s official media reported on the election results for deputies to regional people’s assemblies held on Sunday, stating that 0.09 percent and 0.13 percent of voters, respectively, rejected the chosen candidates for province and municipal councils.
99.91 percent of those who cast ballots supported the candidates for deputies to province people’s assemblies, while 99.87 percent supported those running for deputies to municipal and county people’s assemblies, according to official news agency KCNA.
The governing Workers’ Party in the North is essentially given a blank check by the parliament and regional councils, whose elections often yield over 99% voter participation. According to a representative of South Korea’s unification ministry responsible for ties with the North, this month’s election is the first time North Korea has mentioned dissident votes in local elections since the 1960s.
The most recent regional election, which takes place every four years, was also the first since North Korea changed its election laws in August to permit more than one candidate. The Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, a think tank, said in a study that the goal of portraying a more democratic society is to strengthen the regime’s credibility and authenticity on the international scene, especially when compared to South Korea and the United States.
Kim Jong Un was shown voting in front of two boxes, one marked in green for approval and the other in red for disapproval, in a picture that was made public by official media. The article said that Pyongyang would continue to exercise strict control over the candidate selection process and that “discreet voting will likely remain limited as the boxes will continue to be conspicuously monitored.”
In a nation where voting is mandated, the voter participation marginally dropped to 99.63% from 99.98% four years earlier, a signal that many believe might portend a little erosion of state power.