North Korea will hold elections to positions in the country’s provincial, city, and county people’s assemblies on July 21, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Tuesday.
The vote, which comes just a few months after the DPRK held a nationwide vote to its rubber-stamp Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) in February, will see North Koreans elect mayors, governors, and other local officials.
Elections in North Korea are not typically seen as either free or fair, with voters given the choice between endorsing the candidate approved by the ruling party or registering their abstention on the ballot.
Speaking to NK News in February, Glyn Ford, a director at Track2Asia and a frequent visitor to North Korea, said local elections he’d witnessed in North Korea in 2011 had served as “more a festival than anything else with decorations outside, live music and dancing.”
“There you were given a ballot paper with a single name and went into a separate room curtained off with the ballot box and a pencil,” Ford said. “You either inserted the ballot unmarked or crossed it out.”
North Korea last held local elections in 2015 — then the first such vote to take place under Kim Jong Un.
In the wake of that vote, state media reported that “99.97 percent of all the voters registered in the lists took part in the elections and voted for the candidates for deputies registered in the relevant constituencies.”
One North Korea watcher said next month’s vote would likely offer a similar result.
“Last time, the North Korean leadership, including Kim Jong Un, was reported to have voted in the elections, and ‘28,452 workers, farmers, intellectuals, and functionaries’ were elected to provincial, municipal, and county people’s assemblies,” said Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst with NK News‘s sister site NK Pro.
“We may expect something similar this July.”
Fyodor Tertiskiy, an expert on North Korean politics and the military, agreed, adding that he saw little difference “between local and central elections apart from the color of the ballots.”
“The results will be the same: 99+% voted, 100% endorsed the candidates given,” he said.
Just how powerful the newly-elected local administrators will be is also up for debate, with many largely subservient to more influential local officials in the country’s ruling Korean Workers’ Party (WPK) bureaucracy.
“They have a dual system, there is mayor/governor, technically elected (but actually appointed), and also there a city/province party secretary,” Andrei Lankov, a director at NK News, said in 2014.
“It is the latter who has real power, but the mayor/governor can be important in some cases as long as he knows his proper place and does not challenge the WPK secretary.”
Edited by James Fretwell
Featured image: DPRK Today